The retooling of a previous plan to add a third track to the Long Island Rail Road’s Floral Park/Hicksville line has been met with much contention by local municipalities that stretch the corridor. Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a plan to mend the island’s infrastructure problems at a breakfast with the Long Island Association, a group of business leaders. The 9.8-mile third track plan along with $5 million and $6 million studies to assess the feasibility of a tunnel across the Long Island Sound and the expansion of MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma was detailed.
Further plans include a private operator for Republic Airport in Farmingdale. The project would be included in the estimated $140 billion New York State budget that is up for approval on April 1.
The plan came as a surprise to many local officials, who are now scrambling for details to see how the proposal would affect their community.
“[Cuomo] claims it’s going to be a great thing for Long Island,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said. “It’s unfortunate the governor didn’t communicate his plan to us, who actually live on Long Island. To those of us who will be directly affected by it. If there is an actual plan, I’d certainly like to read it.”
Mineola reps recently huddled with federal, state and local public officials to discuss the plan, including State Senator Jack Martins, Nassau County Legislator Rich Nicolello and Cuomo aides. Congresswoman Kathleen Rice is holding a meeting with local leaders on Friday, Jan. 15 to discuss the LIRR plan.
“When you’re doing something of this magnitude, you should include the people who are going to be most affected,” Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira said. “I have every confidence in the mayor and our other elected officials that they’ll be sure to keep us informed and represent us well.”
Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, and Ronkonkoma branches use the main line. The trains stop at stations in Mineola, Albertson, Carle Place, East Williston, Floral Park, Garden City, New Hyde Park, Roslyn and Westbury.
“Long Island’s future prosperity depends on a modern transportation network that eases congestion on our roads, improves service on the LIRR, helps this region’s economy and preserves the character of these great communities,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a robust and comprehensive agenda to do just that.”
Cuomo cited the need for a third track to accommodate those that work on Long Island but live in New York City. Furthermore, the congested line is forced to run one-way at peak hours because of its limited capacity. He alleges the extra track space would eliminate that snarl-up.
While Cuomo indicated during the talk with the LIA that the current plan differs from an earlier proposal that drew hundreds of detractors during hearings and rallies dating back to 2007, others feel this announcement was ill-advised.
“I commute every day, but I can see where those that live or work along the train line would be angry,” Amy Glarn of Garden City said at the Mineola LIRR station last week. “I think Cuomo should have announced it to the communities. Not at a [breakfast].”
The third track plan was first proposed 30 years ago, before resurfacing in 2007. The most recent plan called for 11.5 miles of new track and would have maligned 200 properties.
The governor’s 2016 plan reduced affected properties to 50, with 20 being residential homes that could lose an average of five feet of land. Homeowners would be reimbursed for lost land and could negotiate with New York State for the sale of their property.
“I began fighting the third track project as mayor of Mineola and remain strongly opposed to it today,” State Senator Jack Martins said. “The governor has expressed interest in discussing this proposal with the community, and we will work with him to facilitate these meetings.”
Cuomo argues the plan would reduce traffic on major thoroughfares and highways and contends the project is needed to Long Island’s “future prosperity.”
“A third track will enable us to provide a better experience for our customers with better on-time performance and fewer hassles,” said LIRR President Patrick Nowakowksi.