Written by Rachel Shapiro Friday, 11 June 2010 00:00
In April, the Long Island Rail Road announced they were holding off on re-opening the proposed East Farmingdale station near Republic Airport because of budget constraints. But Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone said that doesn’t mean the transportation overhaul of Rt. 110 will be held up.
“We’re moving forward on the planning for that right now, we’re looking toward the next phase of the study,” Bellone told the Farmingdale Observer, referring to planning for the railroad station as well as a bus rapid transit system. “It makes sense and can start to be implemented at a low cost. Conceptual study for bus rapid transit concluded that it makes sense. We’ll be doing more detailed planning that will get us to the point where we’re ready for a detailed design.”
The East Farmingdale station closed in the 1980s but Bellone and other elected officials have said that the growing business presence on the Rt. 110 corridor calls for an updated transportation system.
“We can build upon the existing bus system,” Bellone said. “Create a dedicated bus lane on Rt.110.”
Bellone said a bus rapid transit study is in the works and is looking at a line that would travel from Walt Whitman Mall on the north to Sunrise Mall on the south.
“One of the great things is for the first north-south mass transit on Long Island,” Bellone said. “If we’re going to grow our economy on Long Island in the future we can’t do it by adding more cars to the roadway. It starts to allow us to imagine how we might be able to get around without being completely married to the automobile,” he said.
Farmingdale State College President Hubert Keen said students and faculty would benefit from a bus rapid transit system on Rt. 110, where the college is located.
“It would have a positive effect, our student population and staff is growing,” Keen told the Observer. “We will have more and more students who will need the kind of transportation that will be provided by the transportation system on Route 110.”
A bus line that currently runs from Farmingdale railroad station to the campus, N95, is on the MTA’s chopping block, Keen said. Without that bus line, students and faculty taking the LIRR will have to find another way of getting from the station to the campus.
“We are quite concerned about the loss of it,” Keen said. “We have protested it to the MTA, they have said it’s necessary in the scheme of things.” Keen said the bus line is an important one because it’s the only one that goes from the railroad to the campus. There is another line, Keen said, that runs along Rt. 110 but doesn’t start at the railroad station.
Of the bus rapid transit system, Keen said, “It has the potential to alleviate problems with traffic but public transportation systems don’t gain a very large rider ship until they are quite dependable and regularly scheduled.” He said both money and time needs to be invested in it until it “Comes up to the standards that people can leave their cars at home.”
Bellone, and a member of his Downtown Revitalization office both echoed this sentiment, saying that the bus rapid transit system will not reach its full potential without opening the East Farmingdale railroad station.
“Obviously [the railroad] is going though a financial crisis so they pulled it out of the capital plan…we’re working with the railroad and would like to see the money restored,” Bellone said. “I don’t think there’s another investment we could make in terms of our infrastructure.”
He said that the bus line would connect the Republic Airport station, if it opens, with the Babylon and Ronkonkoma branches. Without the Republic station opened the bus system won’t be nearly as utilized.
“We’ve always talked about transit-oriented development in Babylon,” Bellone said. “It makes sense if you’re going to re-open the train station to create a real regional downtown center there.”
Chuck Gosline, an active Farmingdale community resident said he thinks the Town of Babylon is on the right track.
“Their plan to deploy a bus rapid transit line, I believe is a needed and good idea, even if East Farmingdale station is delayed,” he told the Farmingdale Observer. “Money will always be an issue, that is why we need to better plan and allocate dollars.”
Of the funding from the LIRR, Bellone said, “We’re hoping to see that restored; it would be a shame to put this off five years. There’s not a better investment in terms of bang for your buck.”
Bellone is hopeful that the bus rapid transit system will be beneficial to the communities that will use it but says the station is a must.
“To fully realize the potential of bus rapid transit you have to have the station opened up, to have the Route 110 corridor see reductions in traffic, it’s an absolute necessity,” he said.