This morning, Governor Cuomo announced plans to move forward with the Long Island Railroad’s project for a third track on the main line between Floral Park and Hicksville in Nassau County. At the same time, Cuomo wants to study a car tunnel linking Long Island to either the Bronx, Westchester, or Connecticut.
The LIRR project will lay 9.8 miles of track, primarily in the existing right of way, increasing capacity and hopefully spurring walkable development along one of the railroad’s busiest corridors. Expanding the main line will help existing commuters and wring more value out of the region’s most expensive mega-project, the East Side Access tunnel connecting LIRR to Grand Central.
Currently, nearly two-fifths of LIRR riders use the main line’s two tracks. With the Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson, Montauk, and Oyster Bay branches all converging on the main line, service in the peak direction runs on both tracks during rush hours, severely constraining travel in the other direction. Small hiccups in operations often lead to major delays. With the additional track, ridership is expected to increase 40 percent, Cuomo said.
Regional transportation advocates have been calling for a third track for years. A 2014 study by the Long Island Index estimated that, in the 10 years following its completion, the project will bring 14,000 jobs, 35,000 residents, and $103 million in annual property tax revenue to the region.
“This is a project that is critical for Long Island,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool. “It’s critical if Long Island wants to address their congestion issues. It’s critical if Long Island wants to be a community that sheds its bedroom community status.”