Several Long Island business leaders are calling on the MTA to move the Long Island Rail Road’s Yaphank train station closer to Brookhaven National Laboratory, a location they say will get more use and support Brookhaven’s economy.
In a letter sent Monday to Metropolitan Transportation Authority acting chairman and chief executive Janno Lieber, the business leaders called on the MTA to "immediately" get working on a long-discussed effort to relocate the Yaphank station, which sits on Park Street near Suffolk County Road 21.
In late 2018, the MTA, using $20 million in state funding, began the effort to relocate the Yaphank station, starting with a feasibility study. The current station is served by just three eastbound and four westbound trains on weekdays. The station saw about 30 riders on an average day even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further reduced ridership. According to the MTA’s project overview, the station would be moved to "a new site east of the present station" that has not yet been finalized.
The letter’s authors called for the station to be moved to a location that "identifies the straightest, shortest route to the East End."
"This project could help enable the MTA to better serve communities on the East End of Long Island and support regional businesses as well as Brookhaven National Laboratory, a critical economic development asset for our region," said the letter, which was signed by the heads of the Long Island Association, the Association for a Better Long Island, the Long Island Builders Institute, the Hauppauge Industrial Assocation Long Island, and the Long Island Contractor’s Association.
The project was one of many put on hold by the MTA because of the uncertainty of its finances during the pandemic. MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan said the agency is now "lifting the pause on a project-by-project basis."
Donovan said the MTA has completed conceptual designs for three potential sites, but has not reached an agreement with Suffolk County and Brookhaven officials on a final location. Among those being considered are a site west of the Long Island Expressway and north of the tracks that would be reached via Precision Drive, and a site off Rose Executive Boulevard west of William Floyd Parkway and north of the tracks.
"Award of a design-build contract to relocate and rebuild the Yaphank station remains on hold while we work with stakeholders to identify the preferred site," Donovan said.
The letter noted that Brookhaven National Laboratory already employs 2,500 people, and will attract more workers now that it has secured a $2.6 billion federal contract to build an electron ion collider. A relocated train station also would address traffic and parking problems near Ronkonkoma station, and stimulate economic development in the Town of Brookhaven and along the William Floyd Parkway corridor, the letter said.
The authors also called on the railroad to prioritize electrifying its tracks from Ronkonkoma to Yaphank, or to expedite plans to run battery-powered trains in the portions of the LIRR's territory that are not electrified.