New York State: Expansion and Modernisation of Long Island Rail Road

Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York State, has announced $2.6 billion of investment to expand the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), including the construction of a third track.

The investment includes 50 projects to modernise 9.8 miles of the main line of the LIRR between Floral Park and Hicksville. In addition to adding a third track the projects include removing seven grade crossings from the corridor, adding new traction-power substations and parking, and updating the infrastructure for the track and signalling systems. Bridges along the line will also be widened or heightened to prevent strikes from vehicles.

In addition, positive train control systems will be installed on the line to improve safety in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Governor Cuomo said:

“Since the 1940s, people talked about adding a third track and modernizing the Main Line corridor – and now we’re actually doing it. These projects taken together will create smoother and more reliable service for LIRR passengers while at the same time improving public safety by eliminating dangerous grade crossings. The LIRR is the backbone of the region’s economy and this expansion effort will boost growth for generations.”

The main line has become the most congested section of the LIRR because 40% of passengers on the service pass through it. However, the modernisation is intended to facilitate smoother and more reliable commutes with safer and quieter crossings. The new infrastructure should also reduce the levels of noise and air pollution produced by the line. All track on the line will be replaced with new structures that include advanced dampening technology. Sound barriers will be installed along six miles of residential areas which border the main line.

Long Island Rail Road, New York State © Metropolitan Transport Authority (licence)

This plan differs significantly from past proposals for modernising the LIRR because previous plans have not suggested eliminating grade crossings or modifying bridges, but would have required compulsory purchase of residential properties, which the new version has managed to avoid.

The LIRR has produced memoranda of understanding with the communities bordering the proposed third track to solicit engagement on traffic and parking, utilities, drainage, pest and dust control, transit-oriented development, construction schedule and duration and community safety and quality of life. The aesthetic aspects of designing features such as the sound barrier will also be discussed with the residents.

The projects are all expected to be substantially completed by the end of 2022.

Joseph Lhota, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman, said:

“Today is a grandly historic day for the LIRR and the MTA. This project will help the railroad overcome day to day operational challenges and dramatically increase capacity, and it will unlock the railroad’s potential to serve reverse peak travel and propel Long Island as an economic growth engine. It has been a wish list item for as long as the MTA has existed, and today it is clear it will become a reality.”

Philip Eng, President of Long Island Rail Road, said:

“The complete transformation of the Long Island Rail Road is what this region needs. Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, it’s finally happening. With this historic investment, coupled with our LIRR Forward initiative, people across Long Island will begin to experience the world-class railroad they expect and deserve.”

The modernisation of the mainline is part of a $6 billion programme to transform the Long Island Rail Road in order to improve the transport infrastructure in the region and stimulate economic growth. The programme comprises a total of 100 projects, including reconstructing Jamaica Station, renovating 39 Long Island Rail Road stations and removing grade crossings.

The LIRR has engaged with a broad range of individuals and organisations in the area, including community groups, local government officials and businesses. Feedback from these stakeholders influenced the development of commitments to the community and environment during the design phase of the programme.

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