The Long Island Rail Road’s $23.9 million rehabilitation of the Wantagh train station is on schedule, officials said.
Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the LIRR, said that the second phase of the project is set to begin in the fall. The entire renovation, which began last spring, is still slated for completion by mid-2018.
Commuters continue to use the station during the renovations, boarding the first six cars of each Pennsylvania Station-bound train while part of the platform is closed.
The two-year infrastructure project, financed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, brings the first significant upgrades to the Wantagh LIRR station since it was built nearly 50 years ago. They will include a new concrete platform, a segmented canopy, a platform-level waiting room, a new escalator and elevator, new lighting, a new communications system and signage, and a distinctive public art project.
The addition of an elevator will also make the station handicapped-accessible for the first time.
Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an initiative to speed up station enhancement projects by changing MTA contracting procedures to allow private-sector companies to use their own designs. Although the design of the Wantagh station upgrade was completed before the initiative launched, LIRR officials said that they are closely monitoring this “design-build” approach in order to adopt the best practices for future capital projects.
Long Island-based Fortunato Sons Contracting Inc., the primary contractor for the project, also completed the Massapequa station rehabilitation and built the LIRR’s new train wash facility in Babylon.
The first phase of the project is on schedule, Donovan said. Construction crews have demolished the existing east end of the platform and canopy and replaced and repaired existing platform substructure.
Crews are building two new boiler rooms and pipes below the viaduct to help with winter snow and ice removal; fabricating 42 precast platform panels; building a new elevator, platform waiting room and canopy; and installing electrical components, security cameras and resurfacing tracks to ensure that trains line up with the platforms.
Donovan said that the second phase of the Wantagh project will include demolishing the west end of the platform and canopy, allowing commuters entry to the rear six cars on the eastbound side only. Construction will include replacing and repairing existing substructure; fabricating and installing 50 precast platform panels; replacing the existing escalator with a new, wider one; setting more canopy; and installing electrical components and security cameras on the other side of the station.
The station will also feature a permanent public art project, chosen by the MTA Arts & Design program, when the renovation is complete. The agency selected artist Marc Dennis’s proposal for colored glass scenes depicting an idyllic day at Jones Beach to decorate waiting-room windows.
Colorful paintings of birds, beachgoers, sunsets, seashells and fish will be translated into glass. In addition, mosaic stairway panels will depict ocean waves and the shoreline.
“The end result will be a new, modernized station, complete with a new elevator, escalator and snow-free platform,” Donovan said.
Getting to the train
The contractor is currently using the former Triangle Park, south of the station, to store equipment and materials for the project. Construction is taking place during off-peak hours.
During the first phase of the project, the platform has been accessible from only six cars of a train, Donovan noted. Passengers board the first six cars on westbound trains and the last six when heading east.
Donovan said that the project has had minimal impact on parking at the station. But several commuters said they have had to park farther away from the accessible part of the platform since construction began.
Lauren Pennino, 23, of Wantagh, opts to take the LIRR from Seaford. She said she doesn’t want to risk getting to work late, because the construction forces her to park farther from the platform and has made trains more crowded.
“You always have to walk so far just to get to the platform, and it’s packed because one side of the track is closed,” she said. “Seaford has way better parking and is overall just a better station.”
James DeFalco, 64, of Wantagh, still takes the train from his hometown to Manhattan to get to work. However, he said that he has to park far away from the escalator and stairs.
Other commuters said that the project has impacted them. Lauren Pagona, 24, said she still uses the Wantagh station for her trips into New York City because it’s closest to her home in south Levittown.
“I definitely have to allow myself more time to park and walk up to the station platform, but it doesn’t make me want to use other stations,” she said. “I feel well informed about what’s going on, and so far it hasn’t been so bad.”
LIRR officials estimated last year that 6,000 commuters use the Wantagh station daily. Donovan said that locals can learn more about the project at http://web.mta.info/lirr/wantagh.