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Reject Sen. Hannon’s desperate bid to block third track

Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, speaks during a

Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, speaks during a Senate health and insurance hearing on the demise of Health Republic at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Albany, N.Y. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) had the gall Tuesday to throw a last-minute obstacle onto the tracks in an effort to stop one of the region’s most important projects, the proposed third track on the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line. His efforts must not succeed.

Hannon, who has been hostile to the critically needed project, introduced a bill to put $1.95 billion toward speeding up the effort to develop and install new signal controls and communication technology for commuter railroads and New York City subways. Interestingly, that’s exactly the amount of money earmarked for the third track. Coincidence? We think not.

Hannon’s ill-advised attempt to stop the third track under the guise that the more immediate need is to improve signals for the railroad and subways is ridiculously shortsighted and disingenuous. The LIRR third-track project itself includes updated and modernized signals, and the latest Metropolitan Transportation Authority capital plan more broadly designates $3.3 billion for signal maintenance and upgrades systemwide. Bigger projects like the third track are in addition to those efforts. What’s more, Hannon’s bill says nothing about how or when such new signals would be installed, and how to deal with further disruptions to existing signals and schedules while any work gets done.

Hannon’s effort comes as the MTA has been negotiating with local officials and village mayors along the third-track route to accommodate their requests on everything from construction schedules to station improvements. It’s a precarious moment as we near the June 30 deadline for the MTA review board, which could veto the authority’s capital plan, including that same $1.95 billion for the third track. It’s vital for Long Island’s future that nothing and no one — including Hannon — stand in the way.

— The editorial board