The LIRR on Wednesday issued a key document that would guide the construction of a new third track between Floral Park and Hicksville.
The final environmental impact statement for the Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project includes new details about the $2 billion effort, which will include the construction of a 9.8-mile third track on the LIRR’s Main Line and the elimination of seven street-level grade crossings.
“Expanding the Main Line is crucial to the future success of Long Island businesses and its residents, and this environmental study brings us one step closer to fulfilling New York’s goal of providing reliable, safe travel for all,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.
The 22-chapter document, which comes 15 months after Cuomo first proposed the expansion project, marks one of the final steps before the railroad can begin construction of the project. The LIRR still has to secure funding for the plan from the state’s Capital Program Review Board and hire a firm to design and build it.
Project officials have said they expect construction to begin later this year.
In January, about 1,000 people turned out at public hearings on the draft version of the environmental review. The final document provides answers to outstanding questions on how the project will be carried out.
They include: specifications on the height and kind of retaining walls and sound barrier walls, which the report says will significantly reduce existing noise levels for communities near the LIRR’s tracks; specifics on how project officials will monitor and test soil and air quality and measure impacts from vibrations, which the report says will also be reduced from current levels; and plans to expand planned traffic analyses to include additional intersections.
Veronique Hakim, interim executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the LIRR’s parent agency, said the environmental study “confirms not just vast benefits for commuters throughout the entire LIRR system, but for our neighbors in the project corridor as well.”
The report promises to expand the project officials’ commitment to “community-focused construction,” including through pre-construction home inspections, a “24/7” community outreach hotline, and satellite parking to keep workers’ personal vehicles off residential streets.
The document also offers new design details and renderings of related improvements along the railroad’s Main Line, including the crossing eliminations, new garages at Mineola, Westbury, and Hicksville, and new handicapped-accessibility features at stations. They include an elevator at Floral Park, which was previously not pegged for improvements under the plan.
Lawrence Montreuil, newly elected mayor of the Village of New Hyde Park, where opposition to the project is strong, said he was disappointed that the LIRR dismissed calls from several communities — including his — to scrap its draft environmental study, which they said was rushed and superficial, and issue a new one.
“Obviously, it hasn’t been. So I’m a little skeptical there,” said Montreuil, who had not yet reviewed the final report. “I’m very hopeful it has some of the answers that we’re looking for.”
Hillcrest Civic Association President Nadia Holubnyczyj-Ortiz, who uses a wheelchair and lobbied for the improvements at Floral Park, said she was “pleased” with the change.
“To imagine that a $2 billion project was forging ahead without updating our station was incomprehensible to me,” she said.