The MTA ended 2019 having completed almost two dozen Long Island Rail Road projects! Stations were modernized, new bridges were installed, grade crossings were eliminated…the Railroad even became the first North American railway (and first worldwide) to use lasers to blast leaf residue from its rails.
The LIRR Modernization Program, a comprehensive program of 100 projects to rebuild the LIRR and foster economic growth, made great strides this past year with 14 station enhancements, five major bridge replacements and two grade crossing eliminations. While many of those projects were directly related to the LIRR Expansion Project, to build a third track from Floral Park to Hicksville, the accomplishments span the entire LIRR system.
“The LIRR Expansion Project is moving forward at a remarkable pace, and it is now about one-third complete, and is on schedule and under budget,” MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber said. “This project is the model project for how we are changing the way we manage capital projects to do them better, faster and cheaper.”
“The ability for the Long Island Rail Road to improve service for today’s riders while building for the future needs of Long Island is paramount. These expansion projects coupled with our LIRR Forward initiatives will give us the flexibility we need to provide more robust service and get our customers where they need to go on time,” LIRR President Phil Eng said. “Our Operation and Engineering staff and the entire LIRR workforce really worked hard to make sure projects were continued with as little interruption to customer service as possible and completed on time. We appreciate the patience of our customers and the communities that we serve throughout this critical work.”
The following stations received enhancements and upgrades, including new LED lighting, USB charging ports, free public Wi-Fi, interactive digital kiosks and related improvements.
- Baldwin Station on the Babylon Branch — completed in June 2019. Benches have also been added, new trash receptacles have been installed, and new tactile strips have been placed on the platform.
- Bayside Station, on the Port Washington Branch — completed March 2019. Historic photos, wayfinding signage and new benches were also added.
- Bellmore Station, on the Babylon Branch – completed June 2019. Platforms and the waiting room were also rehabilitated with canopies new windows, doors, wall tiles and new HVAC system, and an art installation.
- Brentwood Station, on the Ronkonkoma Branch – completed June 2019. Shelter sheds and railings were added to the platforms, a new ADA-compliant ramp has been added, as well as an art installation.
- Deer Park Station, on the Ronkonkoma Branch – completed April 2019. Sidewalk and curb improvements, new bike racks and an art installation were among other improvements.
- East Hampton Station, on the Montauk Branch – completed April 2019. The station interior was renovated to preserve its 19th century charm, wood paneling was repaired, and historic photos of the station are on display.
- Farmingdale Station on the Ronkonkoma Branch – completed April 2019. Other upgrades for this station, originally built in 1890, include a new waiting room with terrazzo flooring, new ADA accessible restrooms and a rehabilitated pedestrian underpass with wayfinding signage.
- Great Neck Station on the Port Washington Branch – completed April 2019. The station also received an historic plaque and historic photos.
- Merrick Station on the Babylon Branch – completed January 2019. The plaza area and sidewalks were rehabilitated, and a mosaic art piece was installed in the waiting room.
- Northport Station on the Port Jefferson Branch – completed January 2019. The station underwent a full historic restoration including a new waiting room with terrazzo flooring, new restrooms and new wall and ceiling finishes.
- Port Jefferson Station on the Port Jefferson Branch – completed March 2019. The station building exterior was also renewed with new signage and the installation of an outdoor sculpture in the plaza and a reconfigured plaza area to improve customer flow. Parking improvements were added as well.
- Stewart Manor Station on the Hempstead Branch – completed January 2019. New platforms are now equipped with shelters, MTA help points, new signage and permanent artwork.
- Syosset Station on the Port Jefferson Branch – completed June 2019. The station building was completely rebuilt and the plaza area around the station entrance was rehabilitated. A 21-foot stainless steel and plexiglass sculpture was installed at the entrance of the station building.
- Valley Stream Station on the Far Rockaway Branch – completed February 2019. Historic photos and a commemorative plaque were added to the building. New wayfinding signage and trash receptacles were also added.
Bridges below 14 feet are especially vulnerable to over-height vehicles striking them; in 2016, there were 20 bridge strikes in Nassau County alone. Each time a bridge is struck by a vehicle, speed restrictions are put on trains while a team of specialized LIRR personnel are dispatched to the scene to inspect the bridge to ensure its continued safety: only when a bridge is determined to be safe for full-speed train travel is the restriction lifted; in the interim, the result is cascading delays that can affect train service across the immediate branch and sometimes other branches as well. Replacing low-hanging bridges improves the safety and reliability for both vehicles and LIRR passengers.
- In June 2019, Cherry Lane Bridge, located in the Town of North Hempstead along the LIRR Main line, was removed and replaced with a taller three-track structure. The original low-hanging bridge had been in service since 1953 and the site of many accidents over the years due to trucks striking the bridge.
- Work on the 100-year-old Springfield Boulevard Bridge in Queens Village was completed in August 2019. The replacement of the bridge, which is served by the Hempstead Branch, included repairs on existing concrete platforms, light poles and conduits, as well as limited underdeck concrete repairs.
- The 61-year-old South Tyson Avenue Bridge in the Village of Floral Park was modified, and a new two-track bay bridge was installed in September 2019. It took 2,000 hours to construct and install the bridge which was replaced using a self-propelled modular transporter just like with Cherry Lane and Post Avenue.
- The Nassau Boulevard Bridge in Garden City was struck 16 times in 2018 and 2019 alone. The 11’ 6” bridge overpass was assembled in place adjacent to the site, and LIRR crews inched it into place over one weekend in October 2019, following the demolition of the old bridge. After the new bridge was firmly set in place, crews rebuilt the track atop the bridge, while reconnecting the existing two tracks. The 14-foot has a bay for a third track.
- In November 2019, the LIRR installed new single span steel bridge structures at Accabonac Road and North Main Street Bridges in East Hampton, replacing two aging lower clearance structures. These low-hanging bridges, first constructed in 1895, were the site of many accidents over the years caused by trucks striking the bridges, resulting in train delays in both directions. The large bridge components, which were fabricated in Lancaster, PA, were transported from Pennsylvania by road, then via barge through the Long Island Sound, around the tip of Orient Point, through the North and South Forks to Shinnecock Inlet, then via road again to East Hampton.
- The Flushing Main Street Bridge, built in 1913, in Flushing, experienced years of deterioration, and rehabilitation was necessary to the structure that carries two Port Washington Branch tracks over five lanes of vehicular traffic. Repairs were made to the steel composition and removal of loose concrete from the deck underside. A center median has been constructed beneath the bridge, providing safety for traffic flow. The work was completed in November 2019.
Grade Crossing Eliminations
- The Urban Avenue Grade Crossing in the Town of North Hempstead is one of eight street-level crossings that was eliminated as part of the LIRR Expansion Project. This new bridge installation, where there was no bridge before, eliminated the railroad crossing. The bridge was put into place using an approach called “box-jacking” that reduces the length of time the tracks must be taken out of service to just one weekend – the first time this method was successfully used on a major railroad project in the United States was during this installation in July 2019.
- Covert Avenue Grade Crossing in New Hyde Park was eliminated and reconstructed to provide a two-lane grade-separated underpass with a pedestrian sidewalk on the east side of the underpass. After crews removed the existing rail tracks and dug down 25 feet, the concrete box structure was moved incrementally more than 50 feet into perfect position. The roadway beneath the underpass was officially opened in October 2019.
Infrastructure and Track
The new Port Washington Substation replaces an earlier brick-and-mortar substation that had been in service more than 30 years and was beyond its useful life. Located at the intersection of Davis Avenue and Bayles Avenue, the new substation ensures the continued reliability of Port Washington Branch train service by maintaining a robust power system for the electrified third rails. With greater capacity, the new substation enables the anticipated growth in train service that is expected to coincide with the start of LIRR service to Grand Central Terminal.
Nassau Switch in Mineola is one of the most highly trafficked areas in the LIRR system, with over 200 train traverses every day. The switch installation, which allows trains to be guided from one track to another, was upgraded over several weekends this past fall to prepare for the future third track between Floral Park and Hicksville. These switch upgrades, among many other initiatives, have resulted in 43 percent fewer cancellations, 22 percent fewer short trains and 30 percent fewer trains delayed over 15 minutes.
LIRR Expansion Project Floral Park to Hicksville by the Numbers
- 9.8 — track length, in miles, of the LIRR Expansion project between Floral Park and Hicksville
- 40 – the footage of roadway between the Covert Avenue Bridge and the side walls
- 55 – the number of hours it took to successfully replace Nassau Boulevard Bridge
- 320 – the tonnage of the new Cherry Lane Bridge
- 481 – the net increase of parking spaces when Westbury North Parking Structure is complete
- 800 – number of lighting fixtures to be installed at Mineola Harrison Parking Structure
- 2,000 — number of hours to construct and install South Tyson Avenue Bridge
- 16,000 – a little less than the amount, in cubic yards, of material excavated at Urban Avenue
- 18,000 – amount of linear feet of wall that has been constructed along LIRR Expansion corridor
- 107,000 – approximately the number of daily commuters who travel across South Tyson Avenue Bridge
The LIRR Modernization Program is a multibillion dollar investment in the regional transportation infrastructure that aims to foster Long Island’s economic growth for generations to come. This comprehensive program to reconstruct and improve the LIRR system is moving forward with planning, design and construction. These projects range from large system expansion efforts, such as the LIRR Expansion Project from Floral Park to Hicksville, East Side Access and the Double Track Project from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma, to improvements to existing infrastructure, such as substation replacements and station enhancements. Collectively, these projects will work together to improve the overall LIRR system efficiency and reliability. For more information on LIRR’s capital projects, visit www.amodernli.com.