MTA Unveils Replacement of Frequently Struck LIRR Bridge

Written by Kyra Senese, Managing Editor
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Cherry Valley Avenue Bridge
Trent Reeves / MTA Construction & Development

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has announced a new overpass in Garden City with a 14-foot, five-inch vehicular clearance that would improve safety and cut train delays.

The bridge, which spans Cherry Valley Avenue and carries the Long Island Rail Road’s Hempstead Branch, replaces an 1871-era structure that had a posted clearance of 10’4″ and was hit by over-height trucks more frequently than any other LIRR bridge, according to a release. 

The track bed at nearby Cathedral Avenue, the railroad crossing east of Cherry Valley Avenue, was rebuilt and brought to a state of good repair as part of the project.

“The LIRR continues to move forward by modernizing the system with upgraded stations, better schedules and service and resilient infrastructure,” said LIRR Interim President and Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi. “The old bridge at Cherry Valley Avenue was hit by trucks more than any other bridge in the system, creating delays and compromising safety. The new, higher bridge creates a stronger railroad for our customers and the region.”

Over three weekends, LIRR crews raised the bridge that carries the LIRR Hempstead Branch 12 inches at a time (for a total of 36 inches). On the final weekend of construction, April 1 and 2, a new rail bridge with a clearance of 14 feet 5 inches was installed.

Increasing the bridge’s height is intended to decrease collisions with overheight trucks, which endanger drivers and cause train delays. Following any incident, trains operate with slow speed orders while LIRR bridge inspectors travel to the bridge to ensure it is safe to operate at full speed, a press release said. 

The Hempstead Branch’s Cherry Valley Avenue Bridge was struck by vehicles 162 times over a 12-year period from 2010 to 2022. Comparatively, the second-most struck railroad bridge, located at St. James Street and Chestnut Street, also on the Hempstead Branch, was struck 50 times. 

Since 2018, the MTA has raised the heights of seven bridges in Nassau County, including what had been the third-most-struck bridge, a low-lying 1911-era bridge at Nassau Boulevard in Garden City with a clearance of 11 feet 6 inches, which was replaced in October of 2019, with a new bridge with a 14 foot clearance. 

Nearby, the MTA had replaced the frequently struck bridge carrying the LIRR Main Line over Post Avenue in Westbury in October of 2017, raising its height from 11 feet 10 inches to 14 feet.

The project to raise the bridge is part of an $17.7 billion investment to modernize the Long Island Rail Road that is funding more than 100 projects.