Looking north, a westbound train passes through the Merillon Avenue...

Looking north, a westbound train passes through the Merillon Avenue LIRR station in Garden City on Jan. 5, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Long Island Rail Road is holding a contest for middle and high school students to encourage their interest in the railroad’s ongoing Third Track effort and to foster a relationship with schools along the project’s path.

The LIRR Expansion Project’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and Safety Educational Program is underway for students from sixth to 12th grade attending any one of 17 schools along the project’s corridor.

Participants will submit a poster or short video addressing how they would spend $10,000 to benefit the communities through which the project is being built. The ideas could address issues including quality of life, noise or impact on businesses, according to the LIRR.

The winning idea, which will be selected in May by a panel of judges, could be incorporated into the project as part of its Community Benefits Fund, which aims to alleviate some of the impacts of construction on neighborhoods.

Railroad officials said the contest will provide students with an opportunity to work alongside top STEM professionals and “to apply STEM studies to a real-world, local project.”

The $2.6 billion LIRR Expansion Project, as its formally known, aims to construct a 9.8-mile third track between Floral Park and Farmingdale. The railroad has said the project will increase capacity through a bottlenecked portion of its Main Line, allowing the railroad to run more trains and more easily bounce back from service disruptions.

Railroad officials said the project comes with other benefits, including the removal of seven grade crossings and the construction of new parking structures. It is scheduled for completion in 2022.

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