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Third-Track Plan Isn’t Dead, L.I.R.R. Insists


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Third-Track Plan Isn’t Dead, L.I.R.R. Insists



September 14, 2008



Phil Marino for The New York Times

LINE ITEM Opposition to a third

track is longstanding, as seen in

a bulletin posted in 2005 outside

the Floral Park train station.[/float]THE $1.5 billion plan to build a third train track along a main artery of the Long Island Rail Road has been delayed because of budgetary constraints. But while community leaders and residents along the route are breathing a sigh of relief, railroad officials insist that the project is still on the table.


“We remain committed to the third track,” said Helena E. Williams, the railroad’s president. “The more track capacity you have, the better the service.”


A 10-mile stretch of track from Floral Park to Hicksville would serve as a passing lane for train traffic from five Long Island Rail Road lines that serve 41 percent of all riders. Railroad officials say that ridership last year reached 86.1 million, the most in almost 60 years.


As committed as Mrs. Williams is to a third track, she says that before work can begin, the railroad must pay for other things, including new engines and rail cars, a midsize yard to store them and improvements to Jamaica Station. She said she was unsure how long it would take to secure financing for a third track.


A third track is part of a $6.3 billion plan, the East Side Access project, to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal; that plan is scheduled for completion in 2015.


Discussions about a third track have been going on for decades, but in May 2005, efforts began to get the project officially under way. Work was scheduled to start in 2010 if the necessary federal approval was received.


Concerned about automobile and train traffic, as well as noise and construction, several village mayors and residents put up a fight.


Long Island Rail Road officials said the latest plans include two options — one affecting 91 properties and eliminating 7 houses, the other affecting 85 properties and 2 houses along the proposed 10-mile route.


Community leaders in the neighborhoods where homes and businesses could be affected say they are pleased that the project is delayed and are ready for future battles.


“Whether it’s today, tomorrow or five years from now,” said Timothy Dalton of Floral Park, an area that would be affected. He lives two and a half blocks from the Floral Park train station and works across the street from it.


“I think many of us would just be happy to see this go away,” said Mayor Ernest J. Strada of Westbury, who said he would prefer that the railroad repair a local bridge. “It would provide little to no benefit to our village.”


Mrs. Williams said she had consulted concerned community members along the main corridor route and asked them to consider the economic benefits.


“We asked them to look at the bigger picture,” she said.


To alleviate train congestion for now, she said, a $100,000 study to search for train, track, platform and signal options has begun.


Mayor Phil Guarnieri of Floral Park, whose village would be affected by a third track, said that permanent alternatives exist, including adding rail cars, double-decker trains and high-speed switches.


The third-track project would harm Floral Park, Mr. Guarnieri said. “It’s not only unwanted,” he said, “but absolutely unneeded.”


The initial reason given for a third track was an increase in reverse commuting from Manhattan to Long Island. Mrs. Williams said that the railroad’s previous leadership thought that after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, businesses would relocate to Long Island and increase ridership. But that did not happen, and the railroad’s rationale for a third track changed — to that of relieving congestion on train lines.


The only alternative to a third track is putting people back in their cars, said Mitchell H. Pally, Suffolk County’s representative to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Long Island Rail Road’s parent agency. Insisting that the third-track project is not on hold, he said, “It’s undertaking its environmental review, and that takes time.”


Officials in communities along the proposed track said the only way they will know that the plan is halted is if a mandatory preliminary draft environmental impact statement, filed earlier this year by the railroad, is withdrawn from the Federal Transit Administration.


Until that happens, many say, the project is still open for discussion.


“I think at a certain point in time,” said Mr. Strada, the Westbury mayor, “this will all be revisited.”

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I can't wait for those poor folks to get that needed capacity there. The 2 track system in place now is a major choke point similar to the current PRR hudson tunnel being only 2 tracks.


I await the day i can ride on it when it's done! :D


- A

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