Sunnyside Rail Hub To Be Overhauled

If you have ever rode Amtrak or especially the LIRR through the Sunnyside area of Queens, you would notice how many of the trains tend to crawl through at a snail’s place. This bottleneck mainly stems from older switches & functions that could use a serious upgrade. If the MTA has its way, these desires will become a reality.

The agency plans to use a federal government grant to cover $295M of the projected $368M cost for upgrading the Sunnyside rail hub. Mark Morales of the New York Daily News has more in this report:

Details are emerging about an MTA plan that recently got federal funding to ease congestion at a transit bottleneck in Sunnyside.

Work on the Harold Interlocking – a cluster of signals, switches and tracks at the Sunnyside Rail Yards used by three rail road companies – is slated to start next year.

New tracks, faster track switches, new signal towers and demolition of existing structures are all part of the project, according to a Metropolitan Transportation Authority plan.

The agency was awarded a chunk of the $2 billion available in federal high-speed rail grants earlier this month.

Local and federal transportation officials are banking that the upgrade will increase ridership on all three lines that use Harold Interlocking – the Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit and Amtrak.

“This project will disentangle a choke point that serves nearly 800 trains a day, dramatically improving the reliability of train service for Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak customers,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told the Daily News.

The Harold Interlocking has been targeted for overhaul because it has been a traditional bottleneck.

New tracks built there would allow Amtrak to bypass the already crowded junction and help the rail line shave minutes off its trips to and from Boston, officials said. The LIRR will also cut down on delays since it won’t be sharing the tracks with Amtrak.

To cover the $368 million price tag, New York State got a $295 million grant, with the MTA footing the rest of the bill.

Click here to read the complete report.

This is fantastic news as I find the ride on the LIRR between Penn Station & Jamaica to be extremely painful. It seems to be the part of the trip that always drags. I have lost count of how many times I have been on a train, especially heading back to the island & feeling like I was on it for at least 30 minutes. I then look out the window & notice we have not even reached Jamaica yet. This stretch alone makes me do anything to avoid taking the railroad when possible.

On the financial side of it, having the MTA foot very little of the overall bill is a win for an agency that is already cash strapped & currently does not have enough money to cover the final few years of its Capital Program.

In terms of a Sunnyside station, I agree with Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley that it would help the community economically in the long haul. I find it is one of the few neighborhoods in NYC that is a hidden gem in terms of accessibility & cost. If you throw in a LIRR station, it would only help bring it more into the spotlight. Hopefully the agency will have enough money to consider this addition to the project.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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