The Long Island Rail Road will undergo a transformation to alleviate traffic along its most congested sites, a proposal that has been up in the air for the past 70 years.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Sept. 5 the official groundbreaking of a $2.6 billion project to build a third track on the railroad’s Main Line, between Floral Park and Hicksville.
“Nothing like this happens without bringing a lot of people together to make it happen,” the governor said, speaking to a group of business leaders, laborers and lawmakers at the Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury.
The track will allow more trains to travel to and from Long Island and include a reverse commute for those traveling from Manhattan during peak hours. It will also eliminate all seven street-level grade crossings within the 10-mile project corridor, which often lead to interruptions and delays, Cuomo said. Two of the crossings will be removed and five will be replaced with underpasses.
The fate of the third track has been unclear for the past seven decades, drawing criticism when past proposals have included building the track on private property. Some still worry about the project creating more traffic. “I hate to say I’m skeptical, but sometimes what you’re promised is not what you get,” said Helen Meittinis, president of the Community Association of Stewart Avenue and a Salisbury resident who, like many of her neighbors, takes the LIRR from its Hicksville and Westbury stations.
Cuomo addressed some of these concerns, explaining that the track will be built only on existing LIRR property and includes the creation of new parking facilities along the third track for 3,500 more vehicles.
To avoid possible disturbances that the construction could have on the surrounding area, Cuomo said that the project would also include noise-abating tracks and sound-reducing walls.
“There’s nothing big that you’re gonna get done in your life that doesn’t come with risk,” he said. “We have to get better at saying, ‘I understand the outcomes, I understand the risks, I understand the challenge. I don’t care. We can do it. That’s who we are.’ And that is the role that New York has always played.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and John R. Durso, President of the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, both applauded the project and its potential to stimulate economic growth while improving residents’ quality of life.
“[Cuomo] gets that transformation infrastructure is the key to true economic development,” Curran said. Durso stated that the project is significant for local communities, but also the workforce.
“Addressing transportation issues is key to unlocking Long Island’s economic development potential,” he said and explained that it has the ability to create 14,000 jobs that could bring a $3 billion increase in personal income within the region.
The third track is set for construction and will be completed by the fall of 2022.