To better fortify the branch, construction is starting on a four-year project to build three new power stations, replace switch machines, signals and communications systems as well as third rail equipment and, lastly, harden the electrical system that powers the Wreck Lead Bridge, which spans Reynolds Channel and connects Island Park to the City of Long Beach.
The project will include an extensive clearing of trees and bushes on LIRR property to make way for a new pole line that will anchor new signal, communications and electrical systems and allow their placement well above the flood plain. The vegetation cutting, which is scheduled to begin April 14, will be done by private contractors.
MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said, "The LIRR is an economic lifeline for tens of thousands of residents on the South Shore of Nassau County who commute to and from work each day via the Long Beach Branch. It is no less important to the city of Long Beach, a destination for thousands more heading to the community's beautiful public beachfront and its popular restaurants and nightlife. There is no better insurance for the economic vitality of this region than ensuring the safe and reliable future operation of the LIRR's Long Beach Branch."
The MTA has added nine LIRR Sandy restoration projects to its 2010-2014 Capital Programs, a total commitment of $265 million and the plans for Long Beach represent a major part of that effort.
When Sandy struck Long Island on October 29, 2012, the Long Beach branch was the most seriously affected of the railroad's 11 branches. Third rail power was lost with three of the four substations off-line and awash in sea water. The tracks between Island Park and Long Beach stations were covered with debris and all systems, switch, signal and communications, were knocked out by the salt water.
The Long Beach Branch Restoration Plan includes replacement of the Long Beach Branch Substation, which will cost $56.5 million. Three substations, Oceanside, Oil City and Long Beach, are being demolished and replaced by pre-fabricated substations constructed on platforms that will take them out of harm's way in what is now considered a flood-prone area. Work has just recently gotten underway on the Oceanside substation. The Oil City project is set to begin in January and Long Beach in September 2015.
Systems Restoration will cost $56.4 million and calls for the replacement of switch machines, signals, communications and third rail equipment and is currently in the design stage. Critical components, such as the new signal and communication huts, will be placed on platforms to make them more resilient in future extreme weather events.
At the Wreck Lead Bridge, the LIRR will replace underwater cable, the bridge electrical system and the bridge's emergency generator, a project that will cost $7 million.
The LIRR says the vegetation management aspect of the project will take approximately four weeks to complete. The cutting will take place along the south side of the LIRR right- of-way starting around Horton Avenue in Lynbrook and move east. At Broadway, near the Centre Avenue Station, the cutting will be done on both sides of the tracks through Centre Avenue near the East Rockaway Station. Cutting will then continue on the south side of the right-of-way through Oceanside and Island Park until the Wreck Lead Bridge.