By Mark Hallum
A group petitioning to expedite the construction of a third track along a corridor for the Long Island Rail Road known as the main line gathered signatures from 4,542 commuters last week.
The Right Track for Long Island Coalition petition, advocating for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s LIRR Expansion Project, was carried out at 17 stations throughout the Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson and Oyster Bay branches which experience congestion from train traffic. Cuomo’s proposal will add an artery while attempting to maintain quality of life for residents along the main line.
“We, the undersigned, are LIRR commuters and passengers who suffer regular delays and crowded trains because of the antiquated two-track bottleneck on the Main Line Corridor between Hicksville and Floral Park,” the petition stated. “Construction of a third track will help to solve this problem. We respectfully demand that it be built as soon as possible. It’s high time for all Long Islanders to enjoy the full benefit and convenience of a modern railroad system.”
The LIRR Expansion Project will add a third track to the 9.8-mile stretch of the Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville, and eliminate all seven street-level crossings within the construction zone. A draft Environmental Impact Statement released in December showed this will be possible without having to acquire any residential properties, while sound walls will be built to minimize the impact on surrounding homes.
“We know that past efforts to build a third track have been controversial – but thanks to the unprecedented engagement efforts by the governor’s team and the MTA – this third track is truly a win-win for all Long Islanders,” said Dave Kapell, executive director of Right Track for Long Island Coalition.
Station upgrades will include longer platforms to eliminate the need to hold trains for passengers moving to different cars to exit and additional parking for the anticipated growth in future ridership.
Right Track for Long Island Coalition is a grassroots group comprised of 385 businesses, organizations and individuals, including Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Thomas Grech, who believes that providing better transportation alternatives to the people of Long Island will relieve road congestion in Queens, which has only two east-west thoroughfares for commuters going into Manhattan – the Long Island Expressway and the Grand Central Parkway.
“If there’s more train service going east and west, it should alleviate additional cars going through the borough of Queens. The other part that’s interesting to me, is that we used to be a place you always traveled through,” Grech said. “It’s kind of nice now that people continue to see the value of Queens for educational purposes with our seven colleges and universities, for our parks, for our restaurants, and so on.”
“By increasing capacity on one of the LIRR’s busiest corridors and eliminating all street-level grade crossings, this project will result in less traffic, less congestion and a transportation network that meets the needs of current and future generations of Long Islanders,” Cuomo said.
According to Right Track, the main line was built in the 19th century when the population of Long Island was roughly 50,000; a puny comparison to today’s 7.6 million.
About 308,000 commuters use the LIRR everyday, with an estimated 40 percent of them passing through the Main Line, according to the MTA. The project could improve service for around 500,000 weekly passengers after considering the other branches passing through the Main Line.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall