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Some residents of Little Neck and Douglaston will sleep a little easier if Congressmember Gary Ackerman has his way.
Ackerman announced recently that the House Appropriations committee approved his request for $125,000 to upgrade the Little Neck Parkway railroad crossing of the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington line.
If approved, it would mean the end of blaring train horns which have tormented people in Little Neck and Douglaston living in the general vicinity of the tracks.
In 2005, the federal government began requiring all trains to blow their horns at crossings where inadequate safety measures exist. These passing trains must blast their horns at high decibels for 15 to 20 seconds prior to arriving at the crossing.
At Little Neck Parkway, there are currently only two sets of gates which close to block the road, one on each side, between the tracks and oncoming vehicles and pedestrians.
This is considered inadequate, because it is easily possible to drive or walk around them and cross the tracks while the gates are closed. According to several studies by the Federal Transit Administration over the years, hundreds of people across the U.S. have been killed or injured at crossings like the one in Little Neck, which helped prompt passage of the 2005 law.
If Ackerman’s proposal passes in Congress and is signed into law by the president, additional gates will close off both sides of the road, on both sides of the tracks, and the trains will no longer have to sound their painfully loud horns.
“Although there are still many hurdles to clear, we have passed a critical first step,” said Ackerman. “The residents of Little Neck deserve relief from the constant blistering of LIRR horns so they can sleep, enjoy their weekends and have a good quality of life.”
Bernie Haber, former chair of Community Board 11 and a Civil Engineer, who has proposed other solutions for the problem, is a little skeptical.
“First of all, $125,000 isn’t going to get the job done” he said, “to upgrade the crossing gates will cost between $800,000 and $1 million, and could take two years to design and construct.”
“The MTA isn’t going to pick up the cost, because they already comply with the law” he said, asserting, “the city has to fund the additional cost, and assume the cost of maintenance and repair of the crossing gates in perpetuity.”
Haber said that he had proposed an easier plan, “like they do in Chicago, Des Moines and many other cities,” to simply put center barriers on Little Neck Parkway, to prevent people from driving through the crossing when the gates are down.
“That could be done in a matter of days … okay weeks, and $125,000 could cover the cost of the entire project,” Haber said. “The crossing would comply with the law so the horns would stop,” he concluded.

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