LIRR work in progress on the Denton Avenue bridge in...

LIRR work in progress on the Denton Avenue bridge in Garden City. Credit: Newsday/Randi F. Marshall

In the Village of Garden City, the sights and sounds of progress finally have arrived — at least on and around the railroad tracks.

The beeping of construction vehicles, the clanging of equipment, the green tarp covering metal gates that try to hide the work being done, the detour signs directing drivers around closed roads.

It’s all a bit of a mess at the moment — but it’s going to be worth it. The Merillon Avenue Long Island Rail Road station is getting a much-needed rehab. And just past the station, the Denton Avenue bridge is closed, as the LIRR Third Track construction team is replacing it — the last big piece of the complicated Third Track puzzle.

And now, there’s even a plan to improve the property along the tracks, with trees, bushes, and other landscaping.

It’s about time.

It didn’t have to be this hard getting to this point. It shouldn’t have taken a year of resident complaints, unnecessary and unhelpful legal filings, delay after delay and pushback after pushback, to get us to where we should have been all along.

A year ago, the Village of Garden City sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority over utility poles the MTA had constructed as part of the project to add a third track on part of the LIRR's Main Line. Village officials wanted the so-called "monster poles" to come down, asking the MTA to bury the lines instead.

That was never a real possibility. While the MTA should have communicated better, the authority had truth on its side, as its plans always had included large, resilient metal poles, and multiple location possibilities. But even when a judge sided with the MTA months later, the village refused to give up, choosing to hold hostage the permit necessary for the Denton Avenue Bridge work. Was there a real reason to refuse a permit on the bridge work? Of course not.

It was a disappointing, narrow-minded effort. It resulted in months more of litigation when the MTA had to sue the village just to get the permit.

In the end, another judge again sided with the MTA. The village was forced to issue the permits and the work began. Last week, the village approved a settlement with the MTA, so landscaping and other improvements can move forward.

So, the village ended up right back where it started — unless you count the unspecified amount of money squandered in legal costs, the goodwill lost between the village and the MTA and between the village and its fellow villages, and the time wasted.

But there’s a larger loss when a municipality like Garden City acts like this. Had the MTA not found a way to keep on schedule, an ill-fated effort to complain about the look of some tall poles could have delayed or even halted a game-changing transit upgrade that will benefit not only Long Island as a whole, but village residents themselves. Such parochial decision-making illustrates a lack of regional thinking and understanding that hurts the Island and its residents.

Local municipalities tried and failed to stop Third Track before its approval five years ago. Garden City spent the last year trying and failing again.

Despite those unfortunate efforts, hope abounds:

That come April, the MTA will push a new Denton Avenue bridge into place.

That by the end of the year, the Third Track will be ready to go.

And that by the next time the region has big plans that need local support, big thinking will prevail — even in Garden City.

COLUMNIST RANDI F. MARSHALL’S opinions are her own.

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