Gov. Cuomo calls for eliminating some railroad crossings as part of LIRR expansion plan

Stacey Sager Image
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Cuomo calls for eliminating some LI rail crossings
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Stacey Sager has details on Gov. Cuomo's proposal to eliminate some crossings as part of the LIRR third rail expansion plan.

MELVILLE, Long Island (WABC) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing eliminating some railroad crossings as part of his planned $1 billion third track expansion to the LIRR's main line between Floral Park and Hicksville.

Some say they create constant traffic jams, especially in the peak of rush hour when the crossing gates are down for 24 minutes an hour at Willis Avenue.

"Annoying...more, and more annoying," said Mineola resident Shirley White.

And unsustainable, Governor Cuomo also says, which is why he wants to get rid of 7 grade crossings on the LIRR between Floral Park and Hicksville, the same area where he's proposing a massive project to build a third track to relieve congestion on the LIRR.

"Look if I had my way I would re-do all the grade crossings in the state," said Cuomo.

The governor cites the tragedy on Metro North in which an Edgemont mother, Ellen Brody, was caught between crossings and killed along with 5 others in the resulting explosion.

And on Long Island, countless others who suffered close calls or worse.

"There's something like 25 lives lost since 1980 just in the area that we're talking about," said Cuomo.

But not everyone is convinced they want an LIRR passing lane in their backyard. In the communities that would be impacted by construction of a third track, the governor can now dangle this as a carrot. But he also says it's good common sense.

"If we're doing the work there anyway, why don't we take the opportunity to remove what we know are noisy, dangerous, time consuming grade crossings," he said.

The price tag for building overpasses and underpasses is hefty but the outcome is possibly more appealing to thousands who live with this.

Revealing updated plans for the third rail, Cuomo says no residential property acquisitions will be required.

Initially, the LIRR anticipated acquiring portions of up to 20 residential properties to construct the expansion, but at Cuomo's direction, he said, the preliminary plan has been revised to ensure that the addition of a third track occurs entirely within the existing right of way, eliminating the need to acquire any residential properties.

The original plan calls for additional tracks between Floral Park and Hicksville.

While it would ease congestion and allow for reverse commuting, residents and businesses fear the impact from years of construction.

The governor discussed the plans Tuesday with residents and businesses in Melville.

The planned billion dollar project would involve 9.8 miles of track between Floral Park and Hicksville.

State officials say a third track could serve 40 percent more commuters.