What is the LIRR Expansion Project?

The LIRR Expansion Project is a key initiative of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s comprehensive plan to transform and expand our vital regional transportation infrastructure to strengthen our local economy, create jobs, enhance our environment and protect Long Island’s future. The project will improve transportation service, public safety, and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people who travel, work and live on Long Island.

The project calls for the construction of a third track along a 9.8-mile stretch of the railroad’s heavily traversed Main Line corridor between the Floral Park and Hicksville train stations, and the elimination of the seven street-level train crossings along its route, among other benefits. These crucial infrastructure improvements would maximize the benefits of complementary LIRR projects, such as East Side Access to Manhattan and a second track from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma. Every Long Islander stands to benefit from the new Main Line third track, which will improve reliability, frequency, and on-time service; provide new mass transit alternatives to driving into New York City; improve traffic, safety and noise conditions in communities with street level grade crossings; reduce noise levels along the tracks where retaining walls and sound attenuation walls would be installed; add commuter parking and enhance train stations in the project corridor.

What are some of the key elements of the project?
  • Installation of a third track within LIRR right-of-way to improve service options and reliability
  • Elimination of seven street-level grade crossings to improve safety, eliminate roadway delays, and reduce noise
  • Rail infrastructure upgrades, including new signal equipment and switches
  • Modernization of power substations to bring power infrastructure to a state of good repair and enhance capacity to power three tracks
  • Improvements to seven rail bridges to accommodate a third track and to eliminate bridge strikes
  • Station enhancements, including ADA accessibility improvements and longer platforms avoiding the need to walk through train cars to exit, helping to avoid delays and safety issues
  • Complete avoidance of residential relocations accomplished through strategically placed retaining walls
  • Construction of sound attenuation walls throughout residential areas to reduce noise levels and protect quality of life standards
What are the project benefits?
  • Fewer delays and improved reliability for both peak and reverse-peak direction commuters with the extra capacity of a third track
  • Fewer delays and improved reliability due to extensive infrastructure upgrades, including signals and switches
  • Better service to employment centers on Long Island and in New York City
  • Less crowded trains for a smoother commute, and stations that accommodate full length trains avoiding the need to walk through train cars to exit
  • Quicker service recovery after delay-inducing incidents
  • Additional parking for railroad commuters
  • Fewer cars on the road, easing traffic congestion and improving air quality
  • Elimination of disruptive and noisy train horns and crossing gate bells required at street-level train crossings in the project corridor
  • Noise reduction from the installation of retaining walls and sound-attenuation walls along tracks in the project corridor
How will the LIRR Expansion project benefit the environment?

In 2010, Long Island vehicular traffic, including cars idling at grade crossings, produced approximately 30 percent of the entire Island’s greenhouse gas emissions. The section of the Long Island Expressway that runs parallel with the proposed third track is among the most congested stretches of highway in the nation.

If we do nothing, traffic in this corridor is expected to increase more than 25 percent over the next 25 years. With improved LIRR service, elimination of street-level grade crossings and additional mass transit options for Long Island, we can reduce traffic congestion, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.

How will the LIRR Expansion Project improve the future of Long Island?

As population in the region grows so does vehicular traffic, and the need for better transit options becomes critical.

Long Island needs to leverage its mass transit infrastructure to attract new investment, create additional jobs, strengthen real estate values, and grow its economy to ensure a stable and prosperous future for the Island.

With a third track, the LIRR will be able to more reliably run more trains on the Main Line during morning and evening peak periods, improve on-time performance, and provide an alternate path for trains in the event of a broken-down train, blocked track due to fallen trees or other unexpected service disruptions. All this will result in more frequent and reliable service, including expanded options for off-peak travel.

When the independent research organization, Long Island Index, studied the potential benefits of a third track, it concluded the project would improve mobility on Long Island and benefit the regional economy.

Long Island-based businesses would find it easier to attract and retain employees, especially for specialized industries such as education, biotechnology, and the health sciences; the lifeblood of the Island’s economic health. Colleges and universities would also be more attractive to area students, who would be more likely to stay on Long Island to live and work after graduation.

Where exactly will the three tracks go?

The third track will be added within the existing LIRR right-of-way, on a 9.8-mile segment of the Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville that serves more than 250 trains on a typical weekday and is used by 40% of LIRR customers.

Will this project increase freight traffic on the LIRR?

No. The project is intended to increase capacity for passenger train service. The LIRR has committed that freight trains, which are currently running at less than capacity and do not need a third track, will continue to be prohibited from traveling along the Main Line during peak hours. The project will have no impact whatsoever on freight trains.

Are there regulations about the speed and cargo of freight trains?

Yes. The speed of freight trains is limited to a maximum of 45 miles per hour to ensure safety for rail passengers and operators, as well as local communities. LIRR and federal regulations also require freight operators to carry freight materials in safe, appropriate, and regulated cars to ensure rail, road and community safety.

How will the grade crossings be changed?

The elimination of the LIRR’s street-level rail crossings, called grade crossings, has been underway since the 1980s along the Main Line. Seven grade crossings along this 9.8-mile corridor will be eliminated, which will dramatically improve safety for both LIRR customers and crew, as well as motorists. Five of these grade crossings will have underpasses, allowing traffic to flow even when trains are passing overhead. Traffic along these crossings will see vast improvements, as crossing gates currently can close roadways for up to 30 minutes in a peak hour, contributing to significant congestion on local streets. In consultation with the villages, two of the grade crossings will be closed to vehicular traffic entirely, with pedestrian underpass or overpass solutions to allow pedestrian access at these locations.

Why can’t we eliminate the grade crossings without adding a third track?

This is a comprehensive project that will benefit the entire region, reducing traffic and increasing safety for both regional rail riders as well as local community residents and drivers. Eliminating the grade crossings along the 9.8-mile stretch of the Main Line must happen at the same time that a third track is added because doing the work separately would make construction time, cost to taxpayers, and disruption to local communities many times greater.

Will the LIRR need to relocate private homes to complete the project?

No residential relocations will be required for the project. The project eliminates the need for residential relocation by building the third track within the existing LIRR right-of-way and using retaining walls instead of wider earthen berms. Construction will be handled in a way to minimize the impact on property owners.

If the project requires the taking of commercial property, will owners be reimbursed?

Yes. As noted above, the project will not require any residential relocations for the construction of a third track. While commercial property acquisitions are expected to be minimal, those business owners will be compensated for their property and will receive assistance from New York State to relocate within the same community in which they are currently operating. Extensive outreach from the project team is currently underway to address these issues.

How is the LIRR informing adjacent property owners or businesses and how is it engaging the communities affected by the project?

Governor Cuomo has promised an unprecedented community outreach program as part of the project. Over the past two years, MTA and LIRR officials have met consistently and frequently with local elected officials, civic leaders, business owners and residents to discuss the project and elicit feedback. The results of these efforts have been incorporated into the project’s scope and details in some of the following ways:

  • The use of retaining walls will allow the third track to be placed in the existing LIRR right-of-way. This approach eliminated the need for residential relocations and other imposing community impacts.
  • Sound attenuation walls will be erected throughout residential areas to reduce noise levels and protect quality of life standards.
  • Environmental controls will be in place throughout the duration of construction to minimize dust, noise and other community disruptions.
  • The MTA’s and LIRR’s ongoing commitment to robust community outreach, including consultation on design aspects, will ensure the public’s voices are heard and considered throughout all aspects of the project.
What will the LIRR Expansion project cost and how will it be funded?

The total project cost is estimated at $2.6 billion. This includes 3TC’s contract and other costs including work performed by LIRR employees, contingencies and insurance costs. The project is being funded through the MTA Capital Program.

What does “design-build” mean?

Design-build is an alternative to the traditional construction method of “design-bid-build.” Under a design-build contract, a single firm or consortium is responsible for both the design and construction of a project. This approach puts competitive pressure on bidders to harness innovative methods to complete the project faster and lessen the impact of construction. The final contract imposes financial penalties for failure to adhere to a strict project timetable. This approach incentives faster construction, places the risk for cost overruns on the Design-Builder, and rewards the Design-Builder for reducing impacts on local communities and commuters. Design-build has been used successfully in projects such as the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, as well as the LIRR’s Ellison Avenue Bridge and Post Avenue Bridge replacements.

Who is building the project?

3rd Track Constructors (3TC) was awarded the contract to complete the design and construction of the LIRR Expansion Project. Several expert firms have joined together to form 3TC, including Dragados USA, Inc., John P. Picone Inc., CCA Civil, Inc., and Halmar International LLC, with Stantec as the design professional, as well as Cameron Engineering, and Rubenstein Associates leading the community outreach team.

When will construction begin?

Substantial construction is expected to begin in late 2018 following the completion of design, surveying, mobilization, utility relocations, and other early construction activities. The overall project is expected to be completed by late 2022.

How will the LIRR keep noise, vibration and other disruptions to a minimum during construction?

Incorporating extensive input from local communities, the project team will utilize neighbor-friendly and innovative construction methods and practices to keep the impact of construction as minimal as possible. This community-focused approach to construction includes:

  • Pre-construction home inspections
  • Satellite parking to keep workers’ personal vehicles off residential streets
  • Using existing track to transport materials to and from work sites
  • Advance notification of any disruptive work or road closures to residents, municipalities, school districts and first-responders
  • Scheduling construction deliveries outside of school and commuter traffic peak hours to the extent practicable
  • Creating and implementing a community noise and vibration monitoring program
  • Implementing an air quality control plan to include dust control measures, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, the use of best available tailpipe technologies such as diesel particulate filters, and the utilization of newer equipment
  • Environmental monitoring consistent with a Construction Health and Safety Plan
  • Protecting access to existing businesses
  • Street cleaning as needed
  • Door-to-door outreach to residents
  • Regular project website updates to the public
  • Staffing the Project Information Office with on-site supervision for rapid response to neighborhood concerns
  • 24/7 hotline assigned to a community outreach representative
What happens now?

Beginning in January 2018, the contractors will complete design, surveying, mobilization, utility relocations, and other early construction activities. Ongoing community outreach efforts will also be included in this phase, such as developing clear communications protocols, opening a public information office, continuing coordination with local elected officials, and soliciting input on the aesthetics of components such as stations and sound walls. Substantial construction is expected to begin in late 2018.

Click here to see the project timeline.

How can I ask questions, provide comments or receive updates about the project?

You can submit your questions and comments by emailing us at info@amodernli.com or by sending a message directly through the online contact form. To stay informed about the project, please sign-up for the project mailing list. You can also follow us on Twitter for real-time construction news and alerts.