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Important day for future of the Long Island Rail Road

A Long Island Rail Road train is pictured

A Long Island Rail Road train is pictured in file photo. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Perhaps there’s a light at the end of the train tunnel.

Thursday brought good news for Long Island Rail Road commuters. Those who rode into Penn Station exited trains to find a brand-new concourse on the west end of the tracks at the old James A. Farley Post Office Building. With new signage, skylights and space, and new entrances and exits to the LIRR tracks, the hall is likely to reduce crowding during this summer’s emergency repairs next door at Penn Station.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo suggested that Amtrak, which owns Penn Station, should foot the bill for the cost of the LIRR’s summer contingency plans. Clearly, Amtrak owes something.

And then there was the LIRR’s critical third-track project. There were signs Thursday night that some brass-knuckle final negotiations were underway — talks that just might make the third track a reality.

With the clock ticking toward a June 30 deadline, LIRR vice president Mark Hoffer sent a letter Thursday to Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi responding to a host of additional requests made by the village during a meeting last Friday.

In the letter, the LIRR offered a lot more than the village originally got — including road paving, more traffic mitigation guarantees, landscaping and other cosmetic station improvements. The LIRR promised to try to schedule construction near the village pool and recreation area during the offseason.

And the LIRR said it would establish a $20 million fund to reimburse all communities on the third track’s path from Floral Park to Hicksville for improvements or unanticipated costs related to the project.

The LIRR did, however, reject the idea of a special fund that would provide millions of dollars to Floral Park alone with no strings attached. That, it said, would be inappropriate. The LIRR is right. But its refusal might not be a deal-breaker.

If State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) sees that the desires of village mayors in her district are met, she might be ready to end her long-running opposition. Hopefully, these last-minute efforts to squeeze even more money from the LIRR will lead all involved to say yes. The 9.8 miles of a third track on the Main Line are part of nearly $2 billion in LIRR improvements in the MTA’s amended capital plan. An MTA review board has until June 30 to veto it. If Phillips comes on board, hopefully Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan will follow — and the project will go through.

These long-term plans, like those at the new concourse across from Penn Station, would go a long way to make commuters’ lives better. The concourse is the first phase of what eventually will be a full Moynihan Station train hall for the LIRR and Amtrak. It is scheduled to open by the end of 2020.

Imagine that. Combined with the third track, those big ideas would change the commuting experience for thousands of Long Islanders. Big, bold moves are taking place. Now, perhaps, the village mayors, Phillips and Flanagan will make one of their own.

— The editorial board


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