Holding up LIRR hurts the region
Every Long Islander will, in some way, benefit from the Long Island Rail Road Third Track project.
Every resident of the Village of Garden City will benefit.
That's why the village's decision to hold back work permits for the replacement of the Denton Avenue Bridge is so disappointing. It represents a stunning failure of leadership and will harm both the village and the region.
Replacing the railroad bridge has always been part of the Third Track project. Without it, the critical third track, which will add trains, reduce congestion, allow for redundancy when trains break down and create a superior reverse commute, can't be completed. The project, currently on time, risks delays if the village's defiance continues.
Work on the bridge, which is also known as the Tanners Pond Road Bridge, was supposed to be finished by the end of the summer. Instead, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can't even start. According to a lawsuit the MTA filed, the village has refused to even "discuss, consider or issue" the permit.
But in recent days, the situation has worsened. This week, Garden City officials sent a letter that MTA officials are calling a "ransom note," seeking $10 million and additional perks, in exchange for the permit, which would come with conditions attached. It's a callback to the days before third track's approval, when every village wanted something in exchange for support. It was bad then; it's horrifying now, as it means Garden City is holding the entire region hostage when the third track is about 1½ years away from completion.
Some point to the bridge's history, or concerns about maintaining the single-lane road underneath, or criticisms of the plan to add a sidewalk. But the bridge reconstruction underwent a thorough environmental review, the one-lane road will remain and a sidewalk would benefit pedestrians.
And the village's obstinacy might be rooted in another dispute — over the large utility poles constructed along the tracks. The village had sued the MTA over the poles, but a state Supreme Court judge tossed the lawsuit.
The village is appealing, but without that issue to hold on to, it's turning to the old-fashioned request: Money.
Don't forget what Garden City has already gotten and will get: grade crossing eliminations, renovated stations, fixes to village-owned parking lots and more, never mind an improved commuting experience for residents. Until this week's letter, the MTA had offered to add more landscaping and make additional improvements, too.
All of that's on top of the benefits to the region, including economic growth and added jobs and the potential for more development around train stations.
Now, the MTA is ending negotiations and waiting for the courts. But the village still has the chance to do the right thing for its residents and for Long Island. Stop the hostage taking, issue the permit and let the region move forward.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.