2006-12-15 / Front Page

Village Meets With LIRR On "Third Track" Project

By Stephanie Mariel Petrellese

After almost a year and a half of no communication between the Village of Garden City and the Long Island Rail Road, Mayor Gerard Lundquist announced that he was finally contacted by LIRR representatives to set up a meeting on December 5th for a project briefing on the Main Line Corridor Improvement Project.

Mayor Lundquist said at the Dec. 7th Board of Trustees meeting that for 15 months the Village received no response to several correspondence attempts with the LIRR. The mayor was finally contacted on Dec. 1st by the railroad to set up a meeting four days later with himself and Village Administrator Robert L. Schoelle, Jr. The railroad has recently met with state and local officials, as well as leaders of other communities who will be affected by the project.

The Village is against the portion of the Long Island Rail Road's proposed Main Line Corridor Improvements Project that includes the addition of a third track, but supports the elimination of five grade crossings and improvements to bridges and stations. The main line corridor runs 11.5 miles between Queens Village and Hicksville train stations, and includes Bellerose, Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Merillon Avenue, Mineola, Carle Place and Westbury.

At the recent briefing, Mayor Lundquist said the railroad is proposing a new single track bridge south of the existing double track bridge on Nassau Boulevard. The new track will be raised four feet. There is expected to be no impact to the Nassau Boulevard/Merillon Avenue intersection.

Mayor Lundquist acknowledged that the Village has structural concerns with the current bridge, and said that Dept. of Public Works Director Robert Mangan has met with LIRR representatives to discuss the issue. Lundquist said trucks need to be extracted several times a year. Resident Kathleen Auro asked that the Village be stricter with truck weight enforcement.

At Denton Avenue/Tanners Pond Road, the current one-way bridge will remain intact and a new track will be installed to the south. A traffic signal to meter one-way lane through the bridge will be recommended.

The railroad contends that the third track is needed to accommodate anticipated ridership growth and relieve track congestion during peak periods. They foresee a significant increase in reverse commuters, who travel east during morning peak hours.

Garden City has pledged support to the communities that will be more directly affected by the expansion. The Village's property owners' associations have vigorously petitioned local elected representatives to help stop the project.

Although the railroad has said they will try to avoid property acquisitions, people along the corridor are afraid that there is no guarantee that their backyards will not be taken away. They are also concerned that additional trains will mean more noise, pollution and structural stress on their homes. Several people are also worried that the project will move the track so close to their homes that property values will be negatively affected.

One of the major concerns of opposition groups is that the underlying reason for the project is to accommodate more freight trains. However, Elisa Picca, LIRR's chief planning officer, said at a scoping meeting in 2005 that the current two tracks are able to handle freight trains and that it was not a reason for the project.

The railroad reported at the briefing that $80 million will be provided for the grade crossing project by the New York State Dept. of Transportation. The railroad will fund an additional $80.3 million for the grade crossings and $122.3 million for the alignment of the third track.

The LIRR is scheduled to submit a draft Environmental Impact Statement to the Federal Transportation Authority in April, which will then be followed by public review and comment from September through December. The EIS will describe the proposed alternatives and environmental and socio-economic impacts, with a special focus on property. A final EIS will be prepared by June of 2008 and a record of decision is slated for September of 2008.

The project briefing is available for public review at Village Hall and the Garden City Public Library.

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