Cars and trains have one fewer intersection to share on Long Island, as the LIRR unveiled a new underpass at the former site of a railroad grade crossing in New Hyde Park.
Long Island Rail Road officials and elected representatives on Thursday unveiled the new configuration at Covert Avenue, which recently reopened to traffic after being closed in April so the work could be carried out.
Covert Avenue is the second of eight grade crossings to be eliminated as part of the LIRR’s $2.6 billion effort to construct a 10-mile third track between Floral Park and Hicksville. Railroad officials said eliminating the crossings will enhance safety, improve traffic flow and reduce noise from train horns and crossing gate bells.
"Grade crossings have the potential to be extremely dangerous for drivers and LIRR passengers alike, and we’ve made a concerted effort through the LIRR Expansion Project to remove the ones that aren’t absolutely necessary,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. “These upgrades are part and parcel with our ongoing mission to reduce frustrating delays and help ensure New York’s transportation infrastructure is capable of supporting our 21st century economy.”
The Covert Avenue project entailed constructing a 140-ton concrete bridge on site, excavating the land beneath the railroad’s tracks, and then — over a 48-hour weekend LIRR service outage — pushing the bridge into place using hydraulic jacks.
The reopening of the road marks the fifth completion of a major LIRR bridge or grade crossing over the past 18 weeks.
"Prior grade crossing eliminations took several years. This is what Long Island communities were faced with before," Janno Lieber, chief development officer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said at a ceremony. "We promised to deliver this new and open underpass, a new Long Island Rail Road train bridge, and we promised to do it in six months. And, lo and behold, last Saturday at 4 p.m. we delivered on the dot — six months later."
The speed and efficiency of the work won over Gino Didonato, 83, who has lived next to the railroad's tracks for more than 60 years and initially was opposed to the project because of concerns about the impact from construction.
"But now that it's completed and the way that it was done . . . All in all, I think it worked out very well," Didonato said.
Next up, Lieber said, is another grade crossing elimination project at New Hyde Park Road. The Third Track project is scheduled for completion by late 2022.