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Localities get $20M fund for reimbursement of third-track work

Looking west from the Floral Park LIRR station

Looking west from the Floral Park LIRR station April 12, 2017. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has set aside $20 million to cover unexpected costs that local governments might incur during construction of the LIRR’s third track.

The money is earmarked for North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Mineola, New Hyde Park, Floral Park, Garden City and Westbury. According to a signed agreement between the LIRR and the municipalities, government officials can use the $20 million from the Project Community Fund for reimbursement of “qualified costs.”

“If the fencing around it [the construction site] isn’t proper and we went ahead and spent money to fix it, we could recoup those costs,” New Hyde Park Mayor Lawrence J. Montreuil said Tuesday. “Or, if we wanted to engage a technical expert so they can review the plans, if they change, we could recoup that.”

The MTA plans to build the 9.8-mile third track on its Main Line. Officials said the $1.95 billion plan, which was approved last month, will provide needed capacity to recover from service disruptions and offer extra service, including for reverse commuters.

In November 2016, the LIRR issued a draft environmental impact statement related to the third track’s construction. While the plan unfolded, officials in New Hyde Park, Floral Park and Garden City began opposing the project, citing a lack of clear explanations on how construction would impact residents and businesses. The former mayors of Floral Park and New Hyde Park were particularly vocal about opposing the project.

Montreuil said in a letter to residents last week that the agreement between the village and the LIRR “provides an insurance policy of sorts.”

“The agreement we signed is not a panacea for all issues,” Montreuil wrote. “But it lays out a fair and reasonable approach for dealing with unintended consequences of the project.”

After a municipality submits paperwork for a qualified cost, the LIRR has final say over whether to provide reimbursement, according to the agreement document.

Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi said Tuesday that his village likely won’t draw down as much money as New Hyde Park.

“The work being done in Floral Park isn’t as large as the work that New Hyde Park is getting,” he said. “We’re not going to have months of road closures like them.”

MTA spokesman Shams Tarek confirmed the $20 million fund Tuesday and said the money was added to the third track budget before the construction plan was approved in July.

Funding could increase depending on how long it takes to complete the third track. The agreement stipulates that the company responsible for constructing the third track must pay $5,000 a week for each week the project goes past a set completion date. The MTA is still searching for a company to build the third track.

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