ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul committed Wednesday to complete building a third track for the Long Island Rail Road by the end of this year, while naming Stony Brook University a flagship university with a new mission in the field of artificial intelligence.
In her State of the State speech, Hochul also proposed to improve Long Island’s infrastructure, including the Oakdale Merge road interchange in Suffolk County, as well as environmental measures that would protect the Long Island drinking water aquifer.
"Infrastructure is about connects and we need to reconnect communities," she said. She said the Long Island rail project is one of several needed to "reverse the damage" of highways that have bypassed communities and raised barriers between neighborhoods.
She said she will deliver the 10-mile, third track project on budget and on schedule by the end of 2022. The project is designed to reduce congestion and delays. The $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill proposed and signed by President Joe Biden will help pay for this and other road, rail and bridge projects on Long Island.
"It’s a quality-of-life issue," Hochul said Tuesday.
Another major initiative involves Stony Brook University.
"New York must have a statewide world-class public university system that can change lives for the next generation of students," Hochul said. "I believe that SUNY and CUNY have untapped potential that needs to be harnessed and unleashed, as engines of social mobility, and as launchpads to careers with good-paying jobs."
Stony Brook will join the University at Buffalo as "flagships" in the 64-campus SUNY system and add a focus into the field of artificial intelligence, Hochul said. The university centers already have the highest designations of research institutions nationwide, but Hochul’s measure could mean more funding, greater recruitment of top global professors and researchers and a magnet for more students.
Stony Brook will also partner with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in combining neuroscience and artificial intelligence to allow machines to learn through new insights into brain functions, Hochul said.
There is strong support in the legislature for the proposals to bolster SUNY and the City University of New York.
"To make our state university and city university places where we are not only educating students, but the work force of the future is very exciting to me," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
Other Long Island proposals among Hochul’s priorities include:
- Reconfiguring the major interchange at Sunrise Highway and Montauk Highway. The Oakdale Merge project aims to make the accident-prone interchange safer while reducing exhaust emissions from idling vehicles. Hochul said the state will soon begin the required environmental review. About 126,000 vehicles travel through the interchange daily.
- Creating the Suffolk County Wastewater Management District to protect Long Island’s aquifer and drinking water quality. The project will use new technology from the Stony Brook Center for Clean Water Technology.