OP-ED | By Chairman Thomas Prendergast
When the clock struck midnight this New Year’s Eve, I was in Manhattan in a gleaming new subway station having just taken the inaugural ride on the new Second Avenue Subway line — a major expansion project talked about for decades but that many people thought they’d never see in their lifetimes.
On that night, I found myself thinking about an initiative by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — the LIRR Expansion Project. The project, which is different from past proposals, will add a third track to the heavily bottlenecked Main Line without taking any residential properties. It would help the region, benefit local communities along the corridor and drive Long Island’s economic growth.
As the former head of LIRR and someone who lived on the Island for years, I know the importance of this project. There have been efforts to build a third track to the Main Line for decades. And for decades, no one thought it could be done.
Beginning Tuesday, the MTA is seeking the public’s input at six public hearings this week, and the authority has expanded the period of time the public can give feedback.
At these hearings, you can learn about the project from the experts and then tell us what you think.
Here’s what I know: The importance of this project for Long Island’s future cannot be overstated.
The LIRR Expansion Project will improve service options and reliability to the Main Line corridor. Just imagine the benefits of a three-lane highway over a two-lane highway during rush hour, and it’s easy to see how this will help the hundreds of thousands of commuters who rely on the Main Line.
This project has major benefits for those living along the project corridor, too.
In addition to building within the LIRR right-of-way and not taking any residential properties, we’re modifying all seven street-level train crossings in the project area to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion; we’re adding sound barrier walls to reduce noise; we’re upgrading stations with longer platforms and other improvements; we’re adding more than 2,000 additional parking spots; and we’re using the design-build contracting method to speed construction and minimize its impacts and cost.
These commitments have been made in response to input we’ve received from the public. I encourage the public to keep commenting at this week’s hearings.
Tom Prendergast is chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.