Photo Credit: MARC A. HERMANN/MTA NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT
The LIRR Expansion Project was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal, highlighting that the project remains on schedule.
You can read The Wall Street Journal article below, including more on what’s to come for the project.
New York’s LIRR Expansion Remains on Track
MTA’s plans to add a third track to the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line should be completed in 2022
By Paul Berger
New York state transportation officials said Monday that despite the coronavirus pandemic they are on schedule to complete a $2.6 billion project that will expand rail capacity on one of the nation’s busiest commuter railroads.
The state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority paused billions of dollars of planned spending after the virus started spreading in the region in March. The pandemic also caused construction delays as worksites and suppliers were forced to close or limit operations.
Janno Lieber, the authority’s chief development officer, said in an interview that the MTA’s plans to add a third track to the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line should be completed in 2022, as expected.
The project will increase capacity on five LIRR branches over a 10-mile stretch from Floral Park to Hicksville. Before the pandemic the route carried about 40% of the LIRR’s 300,000 weekday passengers.
Commuter rail ridership has plummeted across the country since the start of the pandemic last year as many white-collar workers shifted to working from home rather than commuting to the office and many businesses closed or are operating at limited capacity. Weekday ridership on the LIRR is down more than 75%.
The MTA’s Janno Lieber, seen here in October along the E line, said the authority has taken advantage of low ridership to accelerate existing projects.
PHOTO: MARC A. HERMANN/MTA NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT
MTA officials say the LIRR capacity expansion is still needed because ridership is expected to return and demand will only increase in the following years. Mr. Lieber noted the work also will modernize a heavily used stretch of line and eliminate eight railroad crossings that inconvenience residents and have been the scene of dozens of injuries and several deaths over the past decade.
The MTA paused billions of dollars of spending on tracks, vehicles and equipment last year because of a significant drop in revenue from fares and dedicated taxes.
In 2020, the authority committed just $5 billion of a planned $13 billion in spending. It has delayed projects to add new subway escalators and elevators and to bring service on the authority’s Metro-North Railroad into New York’s Penn Station.
Mr. Lieber said the LIRR project survived and is moving forward because construction began before the pandemic. He said the authority has managed to keep to schedule, in part, by using fixed cameras and mobile GoPro cameras to limit the need for supervisors and inspectors to appear on work sites and at suppliers’ factories.
He said the authority also has implemented aggressive safety protocols, such as separating entrances and exits on work sites, minimizing mingling among workers and not allowing sharing of tools. He cited the low rate of positive Covid-19 cases among workers on construction projects—about 130 such reports since the pandemic began out of an average daily workforce of 5,000—as evidence the protocols have worked.
Mr. Lieber said the authority has taken advantage of low ridership during the pandemic to accelerate many other existing projects, such as taking the E train out of service near John F. Kennedy International Airport to perform extensive track repairs.
He said state transit officials are hopeful that delayed projects will move forward if President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration and Republicans in Congress can reach a consensus that infrastructure is a priority and make funding available in 2021.