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Rail News: Passenger Rail

MTA OKs environmental findings for LIRR expansion

The expansion project calls for building third track along a segment of LIRR's Main Line.
Photo – MTA Long Island Rail Road


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) board earlier this week accepted the findings of a year-long environmental study for MTA Long Island Rail Road's (LIRR) third-track expansion project.

The agency earlier this month unveiled the final environmental impact statement for the $2 billion project, which calls for building a third track along LIRR's Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville, N.Y.

The expansion project represents one of the most significant efforts to increase capacity on the commuter railroad since it was first built in the 1800s, MTA officials said in a press release.

"The LIRR is the busiest commuter rail system in the country, and is experiencing record ridership numbers as well," said LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski. "While other improvements are underway systemwide, we simply cannot fully meet the need for more and better service without the additional capacity and flexibility of additional tracks on our Main Line. Construction of an additional track in Suffolk County is well underway, and [the board's] vote brings us one step closer to starting an additional track in Nassau, too."

Construction on the third-track project could begin after funding is approved and a contract is awarded to one of several consortia who have expressed interest in bidding to design and build the project, MTA officials said.

As part of the project, MTA also would eliminate all street-level grade crossings within the 9.8-mile project corridor on the Main Line.

Meanwhile, MTA this week released its first annual report addressing the agency's efforts to prepare for climate change.

By the 2050s, sea levels in the New York City region are expected to rise between eight and 30 inches, which would put a "vast amount of MTA's assets . . . at risk of flooding and damage," agency officials said in a press release.

Average temperatures in the region are projected to rise between 3.1 and 6.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2050s, which would increase stresses on rails, switches and air conditioning.

To prepare for such changes, the MTA is undertaking resiliency measures, such as fortifying its tunnels with moving marine doors and permanently elevated flood-exposed signal, power and communications equipment.

"For the MTA, climate change is not only an urgent reality, it is a reality to which all six MTA agencies are already devoting extensive financial, planning, and engineering resources," the report states. "The damages to New York’s transportation assets by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 gave the MTA no feasible option but to rebuild the system in anticipation of rising sea levels and increasingly volatile weather events."

In 2013, a disaster recovery budget of $10.5 billion was approved for the MTA, according to the report.

To learn more about the MTA's repair and resiliency measures after Hurricane Sandy, read this feature from Progressive Railroading's November 2016 issue.