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From the Desk of Senator Craig Johnson: April 9, 2010

The Third Track Roadblock

This is written in response of Newsday saying that, “The biggest political roadblock to the Third Track is State Senator Craig Johnson.”

The MTA/ LIRR has once again reiterated its commitment to the Third Track Expansion Project. This misguided support for this $1.5 billion project comes despite the state’s financial woes and near-unified opposition from communities along the Main Line.

The renewed support for this boondoggle was reported by Newsday last weekend. The paper also pointed out my continued opposition to Third Track and that my position as the Senate’s representative to the MTA Capital Program Review Board gives me veto power over any plans to fund the project. “The biggest political roadblock to the third track is state Senator Craig Johnson,” Newsday reported on March 29.

They are correct.

As long as I’m here, I’m going to continue to make sure that a Third Track is not forced upon the residents of Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Garden City Park, Mineola, Carle Place, Westbury and Hicksville.

It is no secret that I oppose the construction of a Third Track for the same reasons that many of you do: It would destroy the character of the neighborhoods that it touches; it costs way too much – especially during this time of economic crisis; and the MTA continues to change its story about why we need it.

This week, the MTA said it needs the Third Track in order to add rail capacity to better facilitate reverse commuters, i.e. those who travel from New York City to jobs on Long Island. Frankly, that justification does not hold water, especially at a time when the MTA is cutting rail service on the LIRR.

If MTA officials truly want to help strengthen Long Island’s infrastructure to better grow its economy, it should refocus its attention away from Third Track and toward creating a strong regional bus system. What is missing from our current system is reliable North-South mass transit options. An islandwide regional bus system would fill this need and make our communities more attractive to economy growing businesses. Such a system would better facilitate reverse commuters, but more importantly, benefit our own workforce.

I currently carry legislation that will create such a regional system, and it is my hope that the MTA pursues this in its revamped five-year capital plan.