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OpinionEditorial

Clear the rails for the LIRR third track

We are on the cusp of the region’s most critical infrastructure project, one that’s been on wish lists and drawing boards for more than 40 years. It’s a project that says Long Island is moving again.

Looking west from the Floral Park LIRR station

Looking west from the Floral Park LIRR station in Floral Park April 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

This is it.

After a trip full of twists and turns, the train is reaching a key junction. Will it be stopped midway through its journey? Or will it be allowed to navigate the curves ahead?

The Long Island Rail Road’s $1.95 billion third-track project would modernize its transportation infrastructure, propel our region’s economy and provide extensive improvements for villages along Nassau County’s spine. After its completion, Long Islanders would have an easier commute to and from the city, and residents across the region would see a better quality of life thanks to new sound barriers, the elimination of dangerous and congested grade crossings, and upgrades to stations, roads and the all-important LIRR signal system. There would be more trains in both directions all day, instead of the service gaps caused by the morning and evening rush hours. And when problems arise, trains would be rerouted onto the third track, instead of being delayed or canceled.

We are on the cusp of the region’s most critical infrastructure project, one that’s been on wish lists and drawing boards for more than 40 years. It’s a project that would say Long Island is moving again.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo strongly back it, and most elected officials support it, understanding its many benefits. And the money that’s committed to the third track won’t come around again.

The MTA approved the capital outlay of close to $2 billion on May 23. A week later, the clock started for the MTA review board, which has 30 days to veto the plan; otherwise, it goes forward. That deadline comes Friday at midnight, and the project’s fate rests in the hands of one man: Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, the Republican from East Northport. State Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn, the Senate’s representative to the review board, will do what Flanagan says. If he issues a veto by Friday night, it will be a no for the third track, the sound barriers, grade-crossing eliminations, parking garages, upgraded train stations and more. That will be a self-inflicted wound.

Flanagan has refused to take a public stance, although he says he supports the plan in concept. However, he wants a green light from each of the seven GOP state senators from Long Island, and as of Wednesday, freshman Elaine Phillips of Flower Hill wouldn’t give one. Phillips says she wants everyone in her district to be happy, a position that has allowed local mayors to object while demanding the sun and the moon.

The grand bazaar is over. The time has come for leadership. Surely Flanagan wants to deliver on the perennial party promise that Republican leadership in Albany is best for Long Island. Certainly the other members of his delegation won’t let one member derail the region’s future and possibly their own, too. The countdown clock is running. Will Flanagan and his GOP delegation — Kenneth LaValle, Phil Boyle, Tom Croci, Carl Marcellino, Kemp Hannon and Phillips — refuse to make the commuting life on the LIRR better? Will they let $2 billion for Long Island disappear because of the NIMBY opposition of a handful of local leaders?

Or will they move the region forward — and give themselves the opportunity to take the credit? — The editorial board

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