The LIRR third-track expansion project has moved swiftly since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced it Jan. 5, 2016. Here’s a review of the basics:
What is the third track?
The LIRR Expansion Project, as it’s officially called, aims to construct a 9.8-mile long third track between Floral Park and Hicksville. Officials have said it has the potential to be the largest public works project on Long Island in decades.
What will it do?
Benefits of a third track include allowing the LIRR to more easily bounce back from service disruptions on its Main Line, and providing enough capacity to run extra trains, including for riders going in the reverse direction during rush hours, project officials say. Supporters also say the project will increase property values and create jobs on Long Island.
What’s it going to cost? How long will construction take?
The estimated budget is $2 billion, and officials say construction will take three to four years. The MTA expects to amend its existing 5-year, $29 billion capital program, to make room for the project. The capital plan is funded through a combination of MTA, state and New York City dollars — many of them borrowed.
Haven’t they tried this before?
Yes. The LIRR has considered building a third track for decades. A previous push about 10 years ago was defeated by local opposition, including from homeowners concerned that the LIRR would take their property to build the new track.
So how is this any different?
Gov. Cuomo has promised “unprecedented public outreach” in the new plan, which does not require taking any residential properties, but will require building on some commercial properties. Unlike past proposals, the new effort also includes the elimination of seven grade crossings, which project officials say will reduce traffic accidents, congestion, and noise. Sound-attenuating walls, nearly 2,500 new parking spots, and station improvements are also part of the plan.
How’s a third track going to fit?
It would be built south of the existing tracks from Floral Park to Mineola, and on the north side through Hicksville. In some areas, the existing two tracks would be shifted slightly to make room for the new track. The LIRR says the third track would be built entirely within railroad property.
So what’s the down side?
Opponents in villages near the tracks still have concerns over how prolonged construction will affect their quality of life, including road closures, noise, and the impact on local businesses. They say other LIRR improvements, like modernized switches and additional yards, can accomplish most of the railroad’s same goals.
HOW TO BE HEARD
The six upcoming hearings aim to gather the public’s input on the project’s draft environmental impact statement, released in November, which outlines the $2 billion plan and how it will affect communities along its 9.8-mile corridor.
The hearings will be:
- Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Yes We Can Community Center at 141 Garden St., Westbury
- Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. at the David S. Mack Student Center at Hofstra University, 1000 Fulton Ave., Hempstead
- Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Inn At New Hyde Park, 214 Jericho Tpke., New Hyde Park
Comments can also be submitted at www.amodernLI.com until Feb. 15.
Past efforts to build a third track were defeated by local opposition. But, unlike previous proposals, the new plan does not require taking any residential properties and includes the elimination of seven grade crossings -- a measure long-sought by residents in communities that have opposed a third track.
Still, homeowners and elected officials in some villages near the LIRR’s Main Line still have concerns about the project, including the impact on residents and businesses from road closures and prolonged construction.
At a New Hyde Park Village public informational meeting Thursday night, Mayor Robert LoFaro urged residents to educate themselves on the 800-plus page environmental review, and come forward at the hearings with substantive concerns about the project, which Lofaro called “one of the most impactful projects that has ever come before our community.”
“It’s not sufficient to get up . . . and say, ‘This should not be built because I don’t like it.’ That doesn’t work. It’s got to be meaningful,” Lofaro said. “That being said, if you make no comments, that’s not good either.”
Alfonso A. Castillo