During the depths of the Great Rescession the Long Island Rail Road’s Third Track project seemed stalled at the stationhouse, not knowing when it might ever pull away from the platform due to budget cuts and a redirection of funds towards the East Side Access project to Grand Central Station.
“The economic down turn did work in the village’s favor by halting the project,” New Hyde Park Deputy Mayor Robert Lofaro said this past Tuesday night during a meeting at the , “but it’s back.”
New Hyde Park had managed to avoid the sweeping and potentially devastating construction changes the project would have wrought back in 2007 due to an overwhelming amount of community opposition spearheaded by the village, which joined with many of the surrounding municipalities including Mineola, Garden City, Floral Park, Hicksville and Westbury in an effort to derail the project.
The plan – known as the Main Line Corridor Improvement Project – would have a third track installed on the 11.5-mile stretch of rail line between Queen Village and Hicksville as well as elimination of several at-grade crossings.
However, according to Lofaro, the project is once again being talked about.
“We will fight hard to see this project does not happen,” he said, conceding that “the MTA can also initiate eminent domain if they want to.”
Though the project has been in existence since the 1980s, LIRR President Helena Williams had presented two plans in 2008 for eliminating the at-grade crossings, the first involving the crossings at Covert Avenue and New Hyde Park Road, with traffic crossing underneath the tracks, which would remain at their current level, and South 12th Street being left untouched. The second option involved only the elimination of the at-grade crossing at New Hyde Park Road.
In each of the scenarios, some of the private property of homeowners would be taken in order to create the depressed roadway in order to travel under the tracks.
Some residents at the meeting expressed their concerns that the extra trains currently being put on the tracks will cause a gridlock situation in New Hyde Park, specifically on New Hyde Park Road, but also with the heavily reported fiscal constraints of the MTA, how the project will receive funding for its construction.
According to Lofaro, the project would still use federal monies – the same plan as 2007, which was stopped when $3.1 billion in funding went to fund the East Side Access Project in order to allow LIRR trains into Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Due to the involvement of federal funds in the issue, the village board has continued to urge residents to call and petition Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy as well as U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
“We will stand together and hope this does not happen,” Lofaro said of the third track project. “We will continue to fight for this.”