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MTA Third Track, East Side Access projects still running on schedule

Janno Lieber, MTA Chief Development Officer, speaks during

Janno Lieber, MTA Chief Development Officer, speaks during an event at the LIA on Sept. 27, 2019 in Melville. Lieber said work on the the East Side Access connection to Grand Central Terminal and the third-track expansion on the Long Island Rail Road's Main Line are still in progress. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s finances are in “unprecedented” territory, chairman Pat Foye said Wednesday, as dire predictions emerged during the agency’s monthly board meeting. 

The MTA is seeking $3.9 billion from the federal government — money Foye said is “essential” just for the authority to get through 2020. But even if that funding comes in, the authority is facing a revenue loss that could approach between $6 billion and $7 billion come 2021.

The ramifications are enormous, starting with the authority’s next capital program, which is, for the most part, on hold.

But since that hold mostly affects new projects that haven’t been started, work on two massive efforts that Long Island is counting on — the East Side Access connection to Grand Central Terminal and the third-track expansion on the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line — is ongoing, MTA officials said Wednesday.

“East Side Access [and] third track are going forward on schedule, and with all our projects, we’re looking for opportunities to accelerate,” Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber said Wednesday.

Indeed, a rail bridge on Glen Cove Road at the Mineola/Carle Place border will be pushed into place this weekend, Lieber said, noting that it’s been under construction in a nearby parking lot.

Lieber also addressed the controversy percolating in Garden City, where residents have objected to the installation of large utility poles on the south side of the LIRR tracks. Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin threatened litigation over the poles.

Lieber noted that every aspect of the third-track project went through extensive environmental review and hundreds of meetings with village, town and community representatives. The poles, he said, are in the MTA’s right of way, designed for resilience, and have been used elsewhere.

“Frankly, at this stage, we’re not going to stop the project and redesign them because one community has some visual objections, notwithstanding all of the process that’s gone on so far,” Lieber said. “Unfortunately — or fortunately — we’re keeping [on] schedule and budget ...”

The MTA sent a letter dated June 23 to Clavin and town Councilman Thomas Muscarella that outlines responses to the town’s concerns, noting that the pole size was consistent with environmental reviews, that renderings of the poles were even included in the final environmental impact statement, and that there’ve been discussions with the community throughout the process.

“The community input received during the planning phase was invaluable and helped to shape the project’s design,” the letter said. 

MTA officials told The Point Wednesday that Garden City and town officials were aware that large utility poles would be installed, and that the MTA chose the particular spots based on where they had the most right-of-way space, since they had committed to avoiding taking private land. They also noted that part of the reason for choosing the locations of the poles was because the village itself wanted the sound wall to be as close to the track as possible. As a result, the poles were placed in front of the wall, facing the street, rather than behind it, closer to the track.

The MTA officials also have promised the village additional landscaping, including trees and shrubs, along the third track’s path, officials told The Point.