A long-awaited $138-million project to build a second track on the Long Island Rail Road’s the Main Line—the LIRR’s busiest branch—from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma will begin in July and eventually ease congestion, officials said Thursday.
State lawmakers had urged the MTA to accelerate the project during state budget negotiations earlier this year to improve LIRR service and stir economic development. They also said the double track will pave the way for redevelopment of the Republic Train Station, although that part of the project will not be completed until 2018.
“That’s why we fought so hard to make sure work starts now, not in 2015,” said New York State Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick), chairman of the Senate’s Transportation Committee.
Fuschillo said the project will create more than 300 jobs and add benefits to transit-oriented-developments such as the Republic/Route 110 Corridor project and the Ronkonkoma Hub.
Cuts to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2010 left the LIRR with only $30 million for the project and delayed it until 2015. But this spring the State Legislature included the funds in the MTA’s five-year capital plan to start the work sooner.
“I view this as a game-changer for this region of Long Island,” said LIRR President Helena Williams.
The double track will also offer further intra-Island commuting opportunities, she said. Other officials said they are optimistic about the benefits this project will provide for LI’s economy.
“The impact of this important return on our investment will boost our region’s strength, and specifically our economy,” state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who was also involved in coordinating the project, called the development “a homerun.”
Environmental assessment and the design stage of the track work are set to start July 1. Williams said the project will consist of two phases.
The first phase will add track from Central Islip to Ronkonkoma and is expected to be completed by September 2016. Phase two will focus on Central Islip to Farmingdale and will begin immediately after the completion of phase one.
Construction is not expected to cause major delays for commuters once it begins next year. Joe Calderone, an LIRR spokesman, said construction will work around the train schedule and occur primarily at off-peak traveling times.
The Main Line between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma spans 17.9 miles and currently has only 5.3 miles of double track territory. This project will cover the remaining 12.6 miles of single track.
“Double track is a very important project for the LIRR and for Long Island,” Williams said. “It will provide real benefits for decades to come.”