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Letter: MTA, LIRR Still Has Third Track in Sights

On August 10, the MTA released a Draft 2010-2014 Capital Program document and a 20-year Capital Needs Assessment document for public review and comment. It seems that the LIRR Main Line Corridor Improvements Project has morphed into something called the LIRR Strategic Corridor Improvement Program. The LIRR Strategic Corridor Improvements Program redefines the main line as being between Jamaica station in Queens County and the Ronkonkoma station in Suffolk County.

The MTA press release, executive summary presentation and Draft 2010-2014 Capital Program document make absolutely no mention of at-grade crossing elimination or a main line third track from Floral Park to Hicksville. In fact, the MTA LIRR Program Plan and Project Lists show no line item money allocated for at-grade crossing elimination and the third track, as was the case in previous capital programs. Where did the hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for these projects go?

Midway through the third paragraph on page 48 of the Draft Capital Needs Assessment 2010-2029 document, it reads, “The construction of a full second electrified track on the main line from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma will provide a substantial increase in train capacity and greatly improve service reliability and recovery time following incidents for this very busy and crowded railroad corridor.”

In the first phase of this project, a second track would be constructed from Ronkonkoma to Central Islip. The paragraph continues with, “Another opportunity to expand service and improve reliability along the Main Line Corridor is the construction of a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville. The LIRR intends to restart the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) process during the 2015-2019 Capital Program, with construction in the following two capital programs.”

Talk about being left in limbo, especially when the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) arbitrators just cost the MTA $600 million a year they do not have even with a new payroll tax and a 10 percent fair hike. So you can add 10 years to the above fairy tale timelines.

It is curious that the Nassau County main line third track is put off indefinitely in favor of a Suffolk County main line second track without any mention of at-grade crossing elimination. Could it be that those pesky Nassau County main line villages are just temporary obstacles to progressive thinkers and sages in our midst? There are no villages to worry about along the Suffolk County main line. Why not build there first? Hopefully, the progressive thinkers and sages surmise, by the time the second track is built, those pesky Nassau County main line villages will be consolidated right out of the third track’s way.

Edward W. Powers
New Hyde Park