Gov Cuomo Announces LIRR Expansion Progress

Earlier today, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that major steps have been made in relation to the LIRR Expansion Project. Here is more via the official presser I received:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced major steps forward for the Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project, including a continued commitment to community outreach by holding four public meetings, expedited modifications to all train crossings along the project route, and increased transparency with the release of a new project scoping report, website and community center.

“A third track on the main line is crucial to the future of Long Island,” said Governor Cuomo. “This project will make the LIRR more reliable for millions of customers, while also eliminating multiple dangerous train crossings along the main line. Our proposal will ensure that we can continue to improve the quality of life and grow the economy in the region, and I encourage New Yorkers to learn more about how we’re working to build a brighter future for Long Island.

Extensive Public Engagement

Since Governor Cuomo unveiled the proposal in January, a project team composed of his executive staff along with key MTA, LIRR and DOT officials have worked non-stop to refine the plan in close consultation with elected officials, property owners, business and civic leaders and other major stakeholders.

To date, more than 80 meetings have been held with stakeholders, including the mayors of the Villages of Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Garden City, Mineola and Westbury, state legislators, local civic associations and school boards, chambers of commerce, officials from the Towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Babylon, Islip and Brookhaven as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The Governor also met personally with the mayors to discuss the proposal and address concerns.

While only one public meeting is required, the four public meetings announced today will offer the public direct access to the project team and provide residents, business owners and other stakeholders an opportunity to discuss the project and comment on the scope of work needed, which will result in an environmental impact statement to be released late this summer.

Increased Transparency

Reaffirming his commitment to transparency, the Governor today released a detailed draft scoping document that outlines options for modifying the crossings and the proposed environmental analysis. The project has also launched – a website where the public can learn more about the project and provide direct input.

The release of the scoping document comes nearly three weeks ahead of the first public hearing, ensuring that local residents, business owners, and elected officials have ample time to review the proposal. Governor Cuomo is committed to ensuring an extensive degree of public engagement about the project, and state officials will be holding four separate public hearings throughout the affected corridor. Those hearings will be held on:

• Tuesday, May 24, 2016 from 11 am to 2 pm at The Inn at New Hyde Park, located at 214 Jericho Turnpike, New Hyde Park, NY 11040.

• Tuesday, May 24, 2016 from 6 pm to 9 pm at Hofstra University, in the Mack Student Center’s Student Theatre, located at 1000 Fulton Ave, Hempstead, NY 11549.

• Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 11 am to 2 pm at the ”Yes We Can” Community Center, located at 141 Garden St, Westbury, NY 11590.

• Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 6 pm to 9 pm at Antun’s, located at 244 W. Old Country Road, Hicksville, NY 11801.

MTA officials will also open a LIRR Expansion Project Information Center beginning May 6, located on the south platform at the Mineola Train Station. This information center will provide opportunities for people to review the scoping document and ask questions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 am to 7pm, Thursdays and Fridays from 7am to 3pm, and Saturdays from 10am to 3pm.

Improving Grade Crossing Safety

The Governor has already committed to modifying all seven street-level train crossings in the project corridor but will now also do this on an expedited basis in order to dramatically improve safety for both vehicles and pedestrians; to sharply reduce noise by train horns and bells; and to reduce severe traffic congestion caused by crossing gates being down for prolonged periods of time during peak travel times.

MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast said: “We all know grade crossings are a chronic problem, complicating traffic flow and presenting round-the-clock safety challenges. The Governor’s commitment to speeding up the construction to solve crossing issues along the project route is welcome news for everyone.”

The draft scoping report presents a number of key safety-enhancing options for train crossing improvements along the project’s 9.8 mile route. These construction improvements would also take place on an expedited timetable – with each grade crossing project completed in nine months or less – to significantly ease local traffic congestion.

The train crossings along the LIRR Main Line segment between Floral Park and Hicksville that will be modified are: Covert Ave., South 12th St. and New Hyde Park Rd., all in New Hyde Park; Main St. and Willis Ave., in Mineola; School St. in Westbury and Urban Ave. in New Cassel.

About the Project

With just two tracks to service Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson, Hempstead, Oyster Bay and some Montauk Branch trains, the Railroad has historically been hindered by congestion during peak travel periods and frequent delays, whether caused by a disabled train, a track condition, a medical emergency or a trespasser. A third track will bring other improvements, including infrastructure upgrades at LIRR stations and parking facilities, the construction of retaining walls along portions of the corridor to minimize property impacts and the upgrading of railroad signal systems, substations, culverts, interlocking, crossovers, sidings, track bed, power systems and communications systems.

This LIRR Expansion will support current service plans, and is an important component to the future success of the LIRR’s East Side Access Project, taking Long Island commuters to Grand Central Station and the East Side of Manhattan for the first time. Together the projects are expected to cut commuting time for many customers by up to 20 minutes in each direction.

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Service Diversions 04-29-16

I have just updated the Service Diversions for the weekend & through the end of next week.

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LIRR Resumes Service To North Fork

Earlier today, the MTA Long Island Rail Road announced that it is resuming its service to Greenport & North Fork. Here is more via the official press release:

The Long Island Rail Road’s weekend service to Greenport and Long Island’s North Fork resumes Saturday, April 30 with trains running on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays through November 27. Surrounded by Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound, this part of the East End offers an easy-going, rural feel first noticed from the window of your LIRR double-decker train as it moves through a picturesque landscape that is the heart of Suffolk County’s wine country. There are more than 35 vineyards in this part of Long Island and the train trip takes you so close to the grapes that you actually transverse the Castello de Borghese Vineyard and its rural railroad crossing in the hamlet of Cutchogue.

The Village of Greenport offers a delightful blend of small shops and waterfront restaurants and nearby Shelter Island is just a quick ferry ride away. Aquebogue, Jamesport, Laurel, Mattituck, New Suffolk, Peconic, Southold, East Marion and Orient are among the region’s other popular destinations. And at the tip of the fork are Orient Point County Park and Orient Beach State Park, both with fine beaches.

Traveling Eastbound from Penn Station on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays:

To get an early start, take the 9:12 a.m. from Penn Station to Ronkonkoma where a LIRR double decker train waits to transport you further east, stopping at Medford, Yaphank, Riverhead, Mattituck, Southold and arriving in Greenport in time for lunch at 12:02 p.m. A second train departs Penn Station at 2:12 p.m. taking the same route with your connecting train arriving in Greenport at 5:02 p.m.

Westbound from Greenport to Penn Station:

Trains leave Greenport at 1:11 p.m. and 6:11 p.m. making all stops to Ronkonkoma where customers can connect to a train continuing west to Jamaica and Penn Station.

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Service Diversions 04-22-16

I have just updated the Service Diversions for the weekend & through the end of next week.

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MTA Plans Service Increase For 2 & 7 Lines

Riders on the 2 Train & 7 Train will be happy to know that MTA NYC Transit plans on increasing service. Here are the details via the press release I received:

MTA New York City Transit plans to increase scheduled service on two subway lines in fall 2016, with major additions proposed for the entire length of the 2 line reflecting substantial ridership growth during weekends. The increased service on the 2 line includes a total of 31 extra round trips on Saturdays and 18 additional round trips on Sundays.

As ridership continues to soar, it becomes more challenging to provide service while doing the necessary work to keep the system in a state of good repair. Despite those challenges and in response to increased ridership demand, NYC Transit evaluated weekend service patterns to find opportunities for increasing trip frequency while accommodating ongoing capital work and critical maintenance work.

The 2 line, which shares many stops in the Bronx and Brooklyn with the 5 line, stood out during times when maintenance work is required on the 5 line. The 5 line does not operate during weekends in Brooklyn. During maintenance work on the 5 line, the 2 line provides the only subway service for northern Bronx neighborhoods such as Williams Bridge, Baychester and Wakefield. In addition, nearly every station served by the 2 line saw increased ridership in 2015 with the most significant at the E 180 St Station, which saw a 13.6 percent jump.

“We always want to better serve our customers by strengthening service whenever we have sustainable resources to do so, but we also must balance providing that service with the critical maintenance work we need to run trains safely,” said MTA NYC Transit President Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim. Our biggest challenge now is juggling our record ridership demand all week long while maintaining a system that stays open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The additional 7 service is proposed on weekday evenings, prior to the start of construction-related service diversions, and when car and track capacity constraints do not preclude increased service frequency on the line.

The schedule changes proposed are as follows:

• Saturday 2 service will be increased a total of 31 round trips between approximately 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

• Sunday 2 service will be increased a total of 18 round trips between approximately 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

• Weekday evening 7 service will be increased a total of 2 round trips between approximately 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Implementation of the following service additions begin in fall 2016, and depends on crew and schedule changes that will be finalized in the coming months. NYC Transit may also need to reduce service periodically to accommodate ongoing capital and maintenance work. NYC Transit plans to monitor service after changes are implemented and re-evaluate if needed.

The cost of these changes is $2.5 million annually and has been included in the 2016 operating budget. Service on the 2 line also will be increased during peak and evening hours in June 2016 by a total of five additional round trips, as part of a package of service additions approved in fall 2015.

I think this is a fantastic idea by the agency as I have noticed a lot more riders on the 2 during the weekend over the last year or so compared to before & that time still showed a lot of packed trains throughout the day.

While the agency is usually much maligned, they should be given credit for noticing an increased pattern & doing something to help with it.

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