Local efforts to restore a commuter shuttle to the South Fork, increase train service to the North Fork and explore improving infrastructure “could be accommodated” by the LIRR, Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. announced Monday.
Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said that at a Jan. 26 meeting with officials from the Long Island Rail Road and East End communities, the parties began discussions to reinstitute the South Fork Commuter Connection, a line that would run locally between Speonk and Montauk four times a day between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
“It’s important to be investing in our infrastructure,” said East Hampton Town Deputy Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. “We’re experiencing economic loss by virtue of the fact there’s a lot of lost time and cost to workers to reach our communities.”
To help boost fishing industry tourism, the LIRR proposed turning a 5 a.m. eastbound equipment train into a “Fishermen Train” that each weekday would pick up passengers between Ronkonkoma and Greenport during the fishing season, Thiele said.
The South Fork commuter shuttle — which operated in 2007 and 2008 while the main thoroughfare in the Hamptons, County Road 39, was undergoing repair — would likely start running in early 2018, Thiele said. Additional North Fork service could operate by the end of this year, he added.
LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said railroad officials “look forward to further discussions and further refinements of these ideas.”
East End officials will have to review and approve LIRR-proposed train schedules and processes. South Fork towns must also create transit service between train stations and employment centers, Thiele said, adding that he hopes to get the state to pay for half the cost of bus service to and from train stations.
Donovan said he did not have cost estimates for the projects “at this stage.”
“Everyone at the railroad felt it was a productive meeting and furthered dialogue that we had been holding with the community,” he said.