New York Gov. Kathy Hochul celebrated completion of the Long Island Rail Road's historic Third Track project on time and under budget on Oct. 3.
The new 9.8-mile track runs from Floral Park to Hicksville, giving the railroad more operational flexibility to minimize service disruptions and increase service by 41% systemwide when Grand Central Madison opens later this year, while improving safety and creating true bi-directional LIRR service to fuel the local economy.
“The completion of the historic Third Track project connects commuters with a more resilient and flexible railroad with frequent service, modern stations, ADA accessibility and more travel opportunities for Long Islanders and visitors,” Gov. Hochul said. “I applaud the MTA, local communities, and the hard-working women and men of organized labor who worked together to deliver this transformative project on time and under budget.”
Construction of the third track is the centerpiece of the larger $2.5 billion Long Island Rail Road Main Line Expansion Project, which includes the renewal of five LIRR stations along the route (New Hyde Park, Merillon Avenue, Mineola, Carle Place, and Westbury), the elimination of eight at-grade railroad crossings, upgrades at seven railroad bridges, parking expansions, installation of new sound attenuation barriers, and landscaping improvements. With only minor station work left to complete, the project is heading toward the finish line $100 million under budget almost four years after breaking ground.
“This project is being delivered on time and $100 million under budget, thanks to design-build contracting and many other new and innovative project management strategies,” MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said. “It’s especially incredible that this was all accomplished during a global pandemic and with no residential property takings. It shows that the MTA can deliver on its promise to bring megaprojects faster, better, and cheaper. And this expansion will be a huge boon for Long Island businesses, since it will increase access to the region’s talent pool by enabling not only a 40% overall increase in LIRR service, but a huge uptick in reverse peak train frequency. It’s a win-win-win.”
The newly built third track is physically the southernmost track on the roadbed and will carry eastbound service. It opened in three sections, with the first leg opening Aug. 15 through New Hyde Park and Merillon Avenue and the second stretch to Mineola on Aug. 30. Critically, construction was completed without the need for residential real estate property acquisitions and with an unprecedented amount of community input. This allowed the project team to create neighbor-friendly work zones using innovative methods and practices, such as:
- Frequent, regular meetings between the MTA and local elected officials, civic leaders, business owners, and residents to discuss the project;
- Workers avoided clogging local streets;
- Constant advance informational outreach to keep local residents, authorities, and first responders informed of any traffic disruptions;
- Scheduling construction deliveries in off-peak hours and monitoring noise, vibration, and air quality on a regular basis;
- Ensuring that residents would not be impeded when trying to access local businesses; and
- Door-to-door outreach and regular updates to the project website.
The LIRR Main Line Expansion Project is part of an unprecedented $17.7 billion investment to transform and modernize the Long Island Rail Road. That money is funding more than 100 projects, including the opening of service to Grand Central Madison, construction of a more spacious LIRR Concourse at Penn Station and a new entrance at 33rd Street, renewal and upgrading of 36 stations and 17 bridges, activation of the Positive Train Control safety system, installation of 13 miles of second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, upgrades to 15 electrical substations, parking capacity increases, yard expansions, and more. Additionally, the MTA, together with NJ Transit and Amtrak, plans to seek federal funding to rebuild Penn Station into a world-class, single-level terminal.