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Editorial: Double LIRR track will serve the greater good

LIRR commuters wait for a 7:10 a.m. train

LIRR commuters wait for a 7:10 a.m. train at Ronkonkoma station (Dec. 28, 2010) Credit: James Carbone

There will likely be mild traffic increases at some rail crossings after the Long Island Rail Road builds the second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma. It's a worthwhile trade-off.

More traffic -- the complaint thrown at every change in the local landscape -- is dwarfed by the gains to our region from the double tracking: increased service, easier reverse commutes and, more important, reducing disruptions that currently knock out the whole line when there's a problem on the single track.

Just as critical, the new track will allow much better off-peak as well as intra-Island travel, on a line now dominated by the flow of workers in and out of New York City.

Yet there is some obstruction on the part of a local politician calling for further study of the project's traffic impact, and a civic leader suggesting the road crossings should be elevated over the rail line. The traffic impact has been studied enough. There is nothing left to study. And it's estimated that elevated crossings would cost $100 million each, while the total cost of the 18 miles of track is only $430 million.

Of the 20 railroad crossings affected by the double-track project, eight currently face major traffic congestion, according to an LIRR environmental assessment. But railroad officials also say this expansion won't cause much more trouble than there already is, because adjustments, like timing changes for traffic lights and adding new turn lanes, will be made.

Construction on the new track is due to begin this year and be completed in 2018. It's reasonable to ask the LIRR to do everything possible to keep the new track from clogging intersections further, and the railroad says it will. But it's also important to remember that traffic is an islandwide problem that goes well beyond a few troublesome intersections.

Improved public transit is, in the big picture, one solution to that problem, not the cause.

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