New details of a plan to build a third track on Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line, including where the track will go and how seven grade crossings could be eliminated, will be the subject of four public meetings scheduled in Nassau this month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Thursday.
The project, estimated by Cuomo’s office to cost $1 billion, aims to construct a 9.8-mile track between Floral Park and Hicksville, giving the LIRR more capacity to run trains, bounce back from service disruptions more easily and move reverse commuters traveling to and from Long Island jobs.
To give the public opportunities to weigh in on the project and have “direct access to the project team,” Cuomo’s office on Thursday announced a series of community meetings this month in Nassau County.
On May 24, there will be a meeting at 11 a.m. in The Inn at New Hyde Park; at 6 p.m. there will be another at the Mack Student Center’s Student Theater at Hofstra University. On May 25, there will be a meeting at 11 a.m. at the Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury; and another at 6 p.m. at Antun’s in Hicksville.
“A third track on the main line is crucial to the future of Long Island,” Cuomo said in a statement Thursday. “Our proposal will ensure that we can continue to improve the quality of life and grow the economy in the region, and I encourage New Yorkers to learn more about how we’re working to build a brighter future for Long Island.”
William Corbett, spokesman for Floral Park-based Citizens Against Rail Expansion, said representatives from his group, which includes more than 100 Long Island organizations and residents, will be on hand at the meetings to air their concerns with the project. They include its potential to contribute to air pollution, disturb historic buildings through intense vibrations and disrupt traffic flow.
“There’s so many reasons that this is not good,” Corbett said. “We’re very hopeful that the legislature will not even give him the money to do this.”
After years of planning, the LIRR abandoned its third track plan in 2008 amid local opposition, including by residents concerned that the project would require encroaching on homes.
In January, Cuomo resurrected the plan, with a vow to make it more palatable for affected communities, including by not building on any private, residential properties and by addressing grade crossing concerns.
Starting Friday, Long Island commuters and residents also can visit the new LIRR Expansion Project Information Center on the south platform of the Mineola LIRR station. Visitors can ask questions of project officials during specified times and also review a newly published project scoping report.
The report includes new details on the project, including that the third track would be built south of the existing tracks from Floral Park to Mineola, and on the north side through Hicksville.
Dave Kapell, executive director of the Right Track for Long Island Coalition, a pro-third track group, praised Cuomo for the “timely release” of the report and for working “closely with leaders of the communities along the corridor to develop these plans.”
Also in the scoping report are plans to fast track the elimination of seven railroad grade crossings along the project area. Under the expedited plan, each crossing elimination project will be completed in nine months or less, Cuomo’s office said.
“We all know grade crossings are a chronic problem, complicating traffic flow and presenting round-the-clock safety challenges,” MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said in a statement. “The governor’s commitment to speeding up the construction to solve crossing issues along the project route is welcome news for everyone.”
The 81-page document proposes various options to route pedestrian and car traffic around the LIRR’s tracks, including bridges, underpasses and elevating tracks.
Robert Lofaro, mayor of New Hyde Park, where three of the impacted crossings are located, said, under any scenario, the construction’s impact on his village will be “enormous,” especially if it runs into delays.
“If it extended anywhere beyond what they’re projecting, the consequences could be catastrophic, especially for small businesses that depend on traffic,” Lofaro said.