Last week, village officials and MTA / LIRR officials were on-hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially reopen Willis Avenue. The avenue was closed back in November of 2020 in order for the grade crossing elimination to begin.
The Willis Avenue underpass is unique due to the fact that it passes underneath two railroad bridges instead of just one bridge. This underpass replaces a pair of street-level railroad crossings that for decades had created nuisances to nearby residents with the sounding of train horns and crossing bells, and to motorists who had to experience traffic backups with the closure of crossing gates. The crossings were the seventh and eighth of the eight to be eliminated along the LIRR main line corridor in under two years as part of the project.
“This major milestone in the LIRR expansion is another testament to our unbreakable determination as New Yorkers to pursue big, bold infrastructure projects even as we face the most unpredictable and overwhelming circumstances,” Governor Hochul said. “The third track project will be an invaluable asset in New York’s passenger rail network because it will make travel on the LIRR more convenient and safer while significantly expanding train capacity, and we are indebted to the members of our workforce who were on-site working hard to keep this project on schedule through the pandemic.”
LIRR president Phillip Eng added, “Thanks to this latest grade crossing elimination milestone, this complex section of our rail system is now much safer for our customers and our staff, as well as motorists, cyclists, pedestrians in the communities we serve. The LIRR Expansion Project has always been about creating a safer, more convenient, and more robust railroad for the millions of people who use it each year. I’m proud to say that with each interim completion, we’re making that a reality for customers now and for future generations of railroad riders.”
MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said that the Willis Avenue underpass is a major milestone for what remains the signature example of the MTA’s new approach to delivering capital projects on time and on budget.
“Prior to the start of the LIRR Expansion Project, it had been more than 21 years since the most recent crossing elimination, but thanks to our new way of doing capital work, the third track project team has eliminated eight busy railroad crossings in less than two years,” he explained. “This is also an example of how we are designing projects to bring completed components to the public without waiting for the entire project to be done.”
The third track project in Mineola isn’t just quite finished yet. This past February, Main Street was closed where crews are building a pedestrian overpass.
For more information about future projects regarding the third track, visit www.AModernLI.com.