LIRR Third Rail Project Battle

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has many projects that are important to its operations. While many would say the East Side Access project is the most important, I will respectfully disagree. I feel the most important project for the Long Island Rail Road is the creation of a third track on the main line. The third track is needed as it would help ease the burden on the 10 mile stretch for the Main Line between Floral Park & Hicksville.

Two MTA Board members spoke out about the importance of this project being completed on time as they strongly disagreed with LIRR President Helena Williams who feels the East Side Access project is of higher priority. Steve Ritea of Newsday has more on this story:

A third track will be constructed on schedule “come hell or high water” along the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line, MTA board member Mitch Pally said Wednesday, a week after LIRR President Helena Williams suggested the effort probably will be delayed.

“It’s a project that must happen,” agreed board member James McGovern of Manhasset. “If you’ll forgive the analogy, the island has, basically, a clogged artery and Third Track is the angioplasty.”

With the project estimated at $1.5 billion and the LIRR’s link to Grand Central Terminal still needing an additional $3 billion, Williams last week said a financial crunch at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has forced “a reordering of priorities.” That puts third track behind the Grand Central link, also known as East Side Access.

“We are recognizing that we aren’t going to get another mega-project funded on Long Island,” she said after the meeting, referring to funding for projects other than East Side Access in the MTA’s next five-year capital plan, which begins in 2010.

Pally, of Stony Brook, disagreed, calling third track “the highest priority that we have” and equal in importance to East Side Access.

“My opinion … is that the third track project is on schedule and will remain on schedule, and we will do everything possible to make sure the necessary funds are earmarked by MTA,” he said.

While the third track project never had a defined start date, construction along 10 heavily traveled miles of the Main Line between Hicksville and Floral Park was slated for completion by 2018 or 2019. East Side Access is scheduled to debut in 2015.

The additional track would provide a “passing lane” for express trains and around disabled trains. After the Grand Central connection is complete, LIRR officials say they plan to run up to 24 additional trains during peak hours.

But the project has fueled anxiety and opposition in communities along those 10 miles, where the LIRR has said up to 91 commercial and residential properties could be affected. The railroad has not identified those properties.

On Wednesday, Pally and three other committee members in attendance voted to allot $100,000 for a study of less costly measures that can help with capacity until a third track is constructed. Pally cautioned that those measures should not delay a third track and should “complement rather than substitute” for it.

McGovern added: “We don’t want to spend a dollar on something along that corridor that we’ll have to tear up in two years.”

Williams said the study would look at tracks, trains, platforms and signals, but declined to speculate on the changes.

After the meeting, a group calling itself the Long Island Transit Coalition — including the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Long Island Federation of Labor and the LIRR Commuters Council — said it will fight for funding to complete the third track project on schedule.

I strongly agree with those who feel this project is as important if not more so than East Side Access. The people who would benefit from East Side Access will see those benefits increase tenfold if this project could be completed. If you factor in the third rail project along with the current Queens Interlocking project, this would become a dream commute for riders of the LIRR regardless of their Manhattan terminal destination. The LIRR needs to find a way to get both projects done & if one has to take a back seat, it should be East Side Access. The third rail project benefits all LIRR riders as compared to some.

Lets hope the LIRR does not back down to the ridiculous NIMBY’s & elected officials who are showing no concern for Long Island’s railroad infrastructure evidenced by comments in this article.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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[...] month I wrote about the LIRR Third Rail project & how important it was to the overall transit infrastructure of Long Island. In Friday’s [...]

[...] of the most important things they could do is to continue to the fight to make the Third Rail Project a reality. This project is arguably the most important project in regards to the LIRR. While LIRR [...]

[…] be at the expense of capacity improvements. In particular, the LIRR could keep postponing the $1.5 billion Main Line third track to Hicksville project, and instead run trains on the currently double-track bidirectionally (today they run […]

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