LIRR unveils 1st section of new express lane track from Merillion Avenue to Garden City

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Monday, August 15, 2022
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The Long Island Rail Road's third track starts service Monday after years of construction and decades of planning. Chantee Lans has more.

LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- The Long Island Rail Road's third track began service Monday after years of construction and decades of planning.

The third track is part of the LIRR Main Line Expansion Project, which will allow express trains to glide right through the congestion that builds in Nassau County.

The project is part of a investment of $17.7 billion in 100 projects to transform and modernize the LIRR that also includes the opening of service to Grand Central Madison this year, construction of a more spacious Penn Station LIRR Concourse and a new entrance at 33rd Street, renewal and upgrading of 36 stations and 17 bridges, elimination of eight at-grade railroad crossings, activation of the Positive Train Control safety system, addition of 13 miles of second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, upgrades to 15 electrical substations, parking capacity increases, yard expansions, and more.

In addition to these transformational investments, the MTA, together with NJ Transit and Amtrak, plan to seek federal funding later this year to rebuild Penn Station into a modern, spacious, world-class single-level terminal that is open to natural light.

Eventually, the 10-mile-long third track will stretch from Floral Park to Hicksville.

Map of planned 3rd track

The first section of the track debuted for the Monday morning rush hour, a game changer for commuters with the MTA saying it has the potential to boost capacity by 50%.

Officials rode on the just-opened three-mile stretch of track between the Floral Park and Merillon Avenue stations, disembarking at the upgraded New Hyde Park Station.

The line is expected to relieve a major bottleneck in the section of Nassau County that connects to Jamaica station.

The project has also removed several dangerous intersections, as the trains now pass underneath several streets that used to intersect with the railroad.

"(It's) a lot safer, because before, they used to have a lot of problems with congestion backing up onto Jericho Turnpike," LIRR rider Donna Williams said.

One intersection in Westbury that was the scene of a triple fatal crash in February of 2019 when a driver ignored the warnings and drove onto tracks is now gone.

A second section of the express track extending to East Carle Place is set to open by the end of this month.

Governor Kathy Hochul joined MTA leaders to unveil the new line to commuters.

"The opening of the Third Track marks a huge milestone for commuters and visitors that is decades in the making," Hochul said. "Thanks to this extraordinary project, LIRR trains will run more often and passengers will have a smoother ride than ever. Our partners at the MTA and the hard-working women and men of organized labor delivered an on-time, under budget project, and that's something worth celebrating."

The New Hyde Park and Merillon Avenue stations are upgraded with expanded platforms, digital signage, new platform canopies, furnishings and accoutrements including benches, shelters and signage, CCTV security cameras to improve safety, Wi-Fi, USB charging stations, artwork, new bike racks and plazas with green space.

Each station is now more ADA accessible featuring new ramps, a pedestrian overpass and new ADA parking spaces.

Three railroad grade crossings between New Hyde Park and Merillon Avenue stations (New Hyde Park Road, South 12th Street, Covert Avenue) were eliminated, part of eight crossings that have been eliminated overall as part of the Third Track Project.

There were six fatal collisions at grade crossing locations in the LIRR Main Line corridor between 2007 to 2017.

Nearby residents will no longer have to deal with the sounding of train horns and crossing bells, and traffic backups due to the closure of crossing gates and over-height truck collisions with railroad bridges will also be a thing of past.

The LIRR Main Line Expansion Project is on schedule and $100 million below budget.

The entire express line is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

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