The Long Island Rail Road has hired an environmental consultant to study its plan to construct a third track on its Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
After an expedited bidding process, the LIRR awarded the $6.95 million contract to a joint venture by Gannett Fleming, headquartered in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and AECOM, headquartered in Los Angeles.
The firms, which “have vast experience in conducting in-depth and accelerated reviews,” will do preliminary engineering work, conduct an environmental review, and handle public outreach for the estimated $1 billion project, according to Cuomo’s office.
“This is an important step forward in this project, which is so critical to the future of Long Island residents and the region’s economy,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Earlier this year, I promised that we would engage with the community at an unprecedented level and use the environmental review process to mitigate adverse impacts on the local communities in every way possible. This project will not only improve commutes but also reduce traffic congestion and strengthen the environment by getting more Long Islanders out of their cars.”
In January, Cuomo resurrected the project, abandoned by the LIRR in 2008 amid local opposition. Railroad officials have said the extra track would reduce service disruptions by giving the LIRR more operational flexibility, allow it to operate more trains once it links to Grand Central Terminal as part of East Side Access, and make it easier for so-called “reverse commuters” to travel to and from jobs on Long Island.
The contract, paid for with funds earmarked in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 2005-2009 Capital Program, calls for conceptual engineering designs for the new 9.8-mile track. The pact will also identify community benefits and ways to lessen negative impacts from the project’s construction.
Some residents and elected officials in the affected villages have already raised concerns, including about noise, road closures and disruptions to local businesses. Despite his misgivings about the project, New Hyde Park Mayor Robert Lofaro said he is eager to see the findings of the environmental review.
“The village remains opposed to a third track ... as we were 10 years ago, unless we see something that will have benefit to the community,” Lofaro said.
Cuomo’s office said the new contract will include an extensive public outreach program “that will far exceed statutory requirements,” including public meetings, a project office on the project’s corridor, and close communication with local elected officials.
The Gannett Fleming/AECOM joint venture will hold formal public hearings and accept public comments before issuing its final report. It will be the framework for construction of the project, which officials have estimated will take five years.