'Light at the end of the tunnel' for LIRR commuters on Ronkonkoma Branch

RONKONKOMA, Long island (WABC) -- There is a light at the end of the tunnel for tens of thousands of Long Island Rail Road commuters on the Ronkonkoma Branch who have suffered on delayed and overcrowded rush hour trains.

Construction on the LIRR's main line through Suffolk County will be completed sixteen months ahead of schedule, doubling the railroad's capacity by adding a second track along an eighteen-mile stretch, between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma.

"For decades, leaders have talked about adding a second track to the Ronkonkoma Branch and today we are moving a major step closer to getting it done," Cuomo said. "By pairing design-build contracting with the use of innovative track-laying equipment, we are building a more robust infrastructure faster and at less expense to New Yorkers. This project, along with the 23 other commuter line projects we will complete this year, will ensure LIRR remains the backbone of the region's economy."

Workers are using a state-of-the-art track laying machine that positions rails and rail ties in a single operation. The machine can build an entire mile of rails in just one day. The project, known as "Double Track" will be complete by October, and will allow the LIRR to operate off-peak trains every half hour, instead of once an hour.

Ridership on the Ronkonkoma Branch has doubled in the past 25 years. Now the line is used by nearly fifty thousand commuters every day.

The project was applauded Friday by Anthony Simon, General Chairman of SMART, the umbrella union for most LIRR workers.

"I am thrilled," Simon said. "Once complete, these projects will help our conductors, service attendants, and track repair workers ensure the highest quality service is provided to everyone."
Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.