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LIRR Colonial Road Bridge Environmental Studies

Village of Thomaston Mayor Asking for More Community Involvement

While Village of Thomaston Mayor Robert Stern continues to ask for more information and some real community input into the planned Long Island Rail Road 1200 feet pocket track extension and the replacement of the 109-year-old Colonial Road Bridge, LIRR representatives told the Great Neck Record that they are currently in the middle of required environmental studies and will contact the village when the studies are completed. Mayor Stern insists that his letters and phone calls go unanswered while LIRR Vice President of Public Affairs Joe Calderone told the Record that they have been in touch with the mayor, having sent a letter explaining the environmental studies only last month. Mayor Stern denies ever receiving such a letter.

Mr. Calderone said that the environmental studies include such major concerns as potential noise impacts, landscaping, and bridge alignment. Mr. Calderone also told the Record that in the studies, “the railroad is focusing on Great Neck issues.”

The LIRR issued the following statement: “The Long Island Rail Road is in the process of completing an environmental review of the proposed Colonial Road Bridge replacement and pocket track extension. We look forward to sharing that information with the public when the review is completed. We have been in regular contact with Mayor Stern’s office throughout this process, including a letter dated Sept. 12 explaining that we are moving forward with the necessary environment studies, including potential noise impacts, landscaping and bridge alignment.”

The bridge replacement and the extension to the existing pocket track in Thomaston have been under discussion, in public and in private, for many, many years. Several village meetings, some with railroad representatives, have been held from time to time. Last Thursday, Oct. 20, Mayor Stern held a press conference stating his concerns over all of the proposed construction and his frustration over what he termed unanswered phone calls and letters to Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams.

Although Mayor Stern and Ms. Williams met in April and followed up that same day with a press event explaining all of the work and speaking of cooperation with the village, Mayor Stern insists that there has been no follow-up and his questions and concerns have gone unanswered. “We have had no meaningful contact from the railroad to resolve anything related to the project,” he said.

Mayor Stern went on to broach the subject of the increased ridership the railroad had spoken of; he claims that ridership is down. He also touched on the railroad’s many services cuts, particularly the cut in service on the Port Washington branch. In response, Mr. Calderone said that with this project, that includes LIRR access to the east side of Manhattan (into Grand Central Station), there will be an increase in service. He said that the existing trains into Penn Station will continue, along with the new service into Grand Central. Thus, he said, there will be more trains to and from Manhattan, with both the east and west sides of the city being serviced.

The mayor also spoke of the enormous cost of the project and the resulting debt. Mayor Stern quoted from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s report that speaks of  “MTA budget risks.”

Mayor Stern called on elected officials “who have been helpful in the past” to once again “push the LIRR to sit down with us and implement reasonable measures to mitigate the problems of the proposed project.”

He also called on Ms. Williams and the LIRR “to do what they promised.”

Said Mayor Stern: “I fear that too much debt will result in a cut in services. This is not going to work. This is a symptom of a national problem an it came home to our own backyard.”