By Mark Hallum
The Long Island Rail Road has begun work to make the Flushing-Main Street station ADA-accessible by installing elevators as part of an effort to modernize the entire train system and improve service.
In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a total of $5.6 billion in state funds would be spent adding additional tracks, renovating about 40 stations and adding vital infrastructure to increase train capacity on the LIRR by 80 percent. Elevators are currently being installed at the Flushing-Main Street stop, which serves as a transfer point for commuters heading eastward from the terminus of the No. 7 train. The dilapidated station had been an eyesore for years and the source of frustration for residents as well as lawmakers as development has transformed downtown Flushing.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) welcomed the upgrades in a statement released Tuesday.
“Plans to rehabilitate the Flushing-Main Street LIRR station have been in the works for many years and it’s something for which I’ve long advocated,” Meng said. “I am thrilled that construction is finally underway and that swift progress is being made.”
Renderings released in July showed an almost unrecognizable downtown Flushing station with a canopy over a single entrance. The station is currently not ADA-accessible and provides little shelter for commuters on the platforms. To get from one platform to the other, riders are forced to go around the block at Main Street, using steep stairs in both directions.
Cuomo launched this initiative during the “summer of hell” spanning eight weeks of repairs to Penn Station, which reduced the LIRR train service through the transit hub by about 19 percent. The governor made the declaration after announcing a state of emergency for the city’s subways to expedite infrastructure overhauls and alleviate frequent meltdowns and systemwide failures.
Bickering between Cuomo, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and Mayor Bill d Blasio ensued over whether the city or state should pay for the short-term plan to stabilize the subways, but that issue still has not been settled.
“With the complete transformation of the Long Island Rail Road, New York is recapturing the bold ambition that made our infrastructure the envy of the nation and building for the future. The LIRR is the backbone of the region’s economy, and the strength and resiliency of Long Island requires bold, transformative investments to bolster our transportation network,” Cuomo said in July. “From the previously unthinkable Third Track and Second Track projects to state-of-the-art technology and signal upgrades, we are daring to imagine better and delivering for the people of New York once again.”
The Third Track is an expansion project for the 9.8-mile stretch of the Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville. It eliminates all seven street-level crossings within the construction zone and will cost an estimated $2 billion.
About $375 million will go toward reconfiguring tracks, installing new signals and other infrastructure at Jamaica Station, which has seen some updates since it was built in 1913, according to the governor’s office. Wifi, charging stations and heated enclosures will comprise some of the new features.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall