LIRR’s $2.5 billion Third Track opens after six decades of debate, planning and construction

The nearly 10-mile third track of the Long Island Rail Road through Nassau County is complete, officials said Monday morning.

The $2.5 billion effort had been considered and debated by Long Island planners for more than six decades before construction began in 2019.

“It’s the completion of a long, long journey,” Governor Kathy Hochul announced at a press conference in a garage adjacent to LIRR’s Westbury station. The crowd included key figures from the project’s long history, including two former LIRR chairs and the current interim chair.

The new track, which stretches from Floral Park to Hicksville, has long been considered essential to the expansion of the LIRR, which has operated on the same two tracks across its trunked main line for more than a century. The tight infrastructure has limited the railway’s ability to run eastbound trains during the morning rush hour, westbound trains in the evening, and to bypass unexpected service disruptions along the very busy line. busy, which connects Ronkonkoma, Huntington, Port Jefferson, Hempstead and Oyster Bay. .


  • Construction is complete on the new 9.8-mile Long Island Rail Road third track, which runs from Floral Park to Hicksville, officials said Monday. The LIRR says the extra capacity will allow them to improve service on its main line and recover faster from unexpected service outages.

  • After decades of planning and debatethe project was launched in 2016 and construction began in 2019. Officials said the $2.5 billion effort was completed on schedule and $100 million under budget, although some improvements of the station are still unfinished.

  • Although the project has been widely praised by business and planning groups, some residents along the project corridor have complained about the impact of construction.

Combined with its East Side Access megaproject which will also soon be completed, the LIRR says it will increase service by 40% and, for the first time, be able to provide adequate service to “reverse commuters” traveling to and from the jobs on Long Island.

“Now that the final leg of the third track is complete, we are able to provide the greatest benefit of all – more Long Island Rail Road service in both directions,” said LIRR Acting President Catherine Rinaldi.

The LIRR first attempted to move forward with the Third Way a dozen years ago, but abandoned their plans amid fierce opposition from residents along its path and elected officials who worried about the effects of construction. The original plan would have required the LIRR to build on private property, including some residents’ backyards.

In 2016, then-++Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, spurred on by project supporters, resurrected the Third Way, using a new design and public outreach process that minimized the impact on residents, and offered several new benefits, such than the elimination of eight level crossings.

Still, the third lane faced resistance throughout construction, including in Garden City, where residents said the placement of utility poles and other project features detracted from the look of their village. . Construction has also resulted in frequent and major service disruptions, including last weekend when service was suspended between Jamaica and Hicksville.

“For a long time, people didn’t expect this project to happen,” said MTA President Janno Lieber. “There were a lot of reasons why people resisted it. But we proved everyone wrong.

The first section of the track, from Floral Park to the Merillon Ave. in Garden City, opened in August. A few weeks later, the second segment was completed, towards Mineola. The last section takes the trail to Hicksville. Hochul and MTA officials said the project was completed on schedule and $100 million under the original $2.6 billion budget.

Although the entire 9.8-mile third track is in place and already in service, some work on the project, officially known as the “Main Line Extension”, remains in progress, including various station improvements. This work should last until spring.

Carle Place resident Peter Gaffney said despite Monday’s celebration, the project looks far from over in his neighborhood, where new plantings are already dying and broken concrete and encroaching weeds are apparent throughout the Carle Place station.

“They have more work to do,” Gaffney said. “They’re rushing to try and do this job because it’s their fourth year. [of construction]. There are a lot of things they did that weren’t necessarily good.

Garden City resident Richard Corrao Jr. also said the project appears “very far from complete” near the Merillion Avenue station, where project officials have promised improved landscaping. Corrao said that right now the station is “an absolute mess”.

“They’re quick to cut the tape, but not so quick to fix the problem,” he said.

The long-awaited completion of the project has drawn praise from Long Island leaders and others who helped make the Third Way a reality.

“It was a long and difficult fight, but it was the right one that will benefit current and future generations of Long Islanders,” former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. Cuomo quit a year ago amid sexual harassment allegations.

Matthew Cohen, president of the Long Island Association, a business group that has advocated for the Third Way, called it a “historic project” that “will drive economic growth, help businesses in our region and change everyday life. people traveling to New York City and Long Island.

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