Better than ever. That’s a bold statement to make, but I say it with confidence that we have made great strides rebuilding infrastructure and now the Long Island Rail Road can proudly say we are operating the safest and most reliable service in modern history while we fulfill longstanding promises in 2022.
Riding the first passenger test train recently with Governor Kathy Hochul and acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber to Grand Central Terminal was a glimpse into the future with East Side Access on pace to open by the end of 2022, marking the first new terminal in the U.S. since the 1950s. LIRR Expansion is also set for completion next year. Just last week, we ran the first passenger train to the new Elmont – UBS Arena Station for the first Islander home game in their new digs. With eastbound service available now, and full service coming soon, we’re expanding and giving our region much-needed public transportation options.
With so many milestones on the horizon, the best is yet to come. But, first, we had to tackle languishing infrastructure projects to meet the goal of providing a safe and reliable trip to customers, their biggest concern. We listened, and we delivered. Over the past three years: we’ve virtually eliminated delays and cancellations attributable to cars turning onto our tracks by installing flexible delineators at all 291 grade crossings, while partnering with Waze as the first railroad in the world to get grade crossing alerts in a consumer GPS system.
Waze has taken this initiative worldwide and Google is also adding this capability. Not only have we made Long Island and LIRR safer, but we’re proud to see our practice adopted making roadways and rail safer across the globe.
We’ve also completed record number of maintenance and state of good repair projects including new rail, concrete ties, Positive Train Control, new switches, and continue to mitigate low-adhesion during leaf fall season with an industry first laser train – the list goes on and on.
These measures have helped us achieve modern on-time performance records that we continuously strive to improve month by month, year by year. Our proactive outside the box thinking is delivering results and we are finding ways to do more with our available funding. As our infrastructure performs better, our operational costs are better controlled. This allows us to stay on the best track to fully modernize our system.
During this holiday season, we have many reasons to be thankful. Personally, I’m blessed for the opportunity to serve the public and the region I’ve called home for my entire life, working alongside dedicated LIRR employees.
With the railroad as good as it’s ever been, I’m welcoming record numbers of riders back. Taking public transportation helps protect the environment and is a smart and easy way to relax and enjoy all that Long Island and New York has to offer this joyous holiday season.
Phillip Eng is the president of the Long Island Rail Road.