Now Open: MTA Officials Today Reopened Urban Avenue in New Cassel – Marking the First Successful Grade Crossing Elimination for LIRR Expansion Project

MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber cuts the ribbon in a ceremony at Urban Avenue, marking the reopening of the roadway that now travels under the LIRR main line, the first of eight grade crossing eliminations to be completed as part of the $2.6 billion LIRR Expansion Project.MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber cuts the ribbon in a ceremony at Urban Avenue, marking the reopening of the roadway that now travels under the LIRR main line, the first of eight grade crossing eliminations to be completed as part of the $2.6 billion LIRR Expansion Project.

The Urban Avenue Grade Crossing in New Cassel, in the Town of North Hempstead, officially opened to traffic today, Thursday September 5 at 10:00 a.m., the first of eight grade crossings to be eliminated as part of the LIRR Expansion Project Floral Park to Hicksville. The new Urban Avenue Bridge was successfully installed in an innovative feat of engineering over the weekend of July 20-21, eliminating the railroad at grade crossing for vehicles.

MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber said, “It’s a pleasure to reopen this roadway according to the expedited timeframe we’ve set for this project. This approach to grade crossing eliminations exemplifies our approach to the entire LIRR Expansion Project. We’re doing it smarter, faster, within budget, and with unprecedented community outreach and input.”

“The LIRR is the backbone of the region’s economy and we are modernizing it to create a more reliable service for passengers – with their convenience and safety as top priorities,” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said. “The grade crossing that was eliminated and replaced with this newly opened roadway is part of a plan to eliminate all dangerous crossings and proceed with our nation-leading investments to give New Yorkers a 21st century transportation infrastructure.”

“No longer will the gates be down for more than a half-hour out of every 60 minutes in the peak hours. No longer will our trains have to blow their horns,” LIRR president Phillip Eng said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by MTA and railroad labor leaders. “It’s a testament to us finding new ways of doing things, being sensitive to the community, and showing that we can deliver on our commitments. “I think, as you look at it, it’s a beauty.”

First vehicles use the newly opened underpass.

The Urban Avenue underpass.

The Urban Avenue crossing had been closed to traffic on March 8. The new bridge was put into place during the weekend of July 20-21 using an approach called “box-jacking” that reduces the length of time the tracks must be taken out of service to just one weekend.

Under this approach, workers built a 140-ton concrete structure onsite that includes the rail bridge, the 40 feet of roadway beneath the bridge, and the side walls connecting roadway below with rail bridge above. They then used powerful hydraulic jacks to inch the structure into place over the course of one weekend.

Workers at Urban Avenue excavated 2,700 cubic yards of material to dig the underpass to a depth of 22 feet.

Eliminating railroad crossings improves safety. In the decade prior to the start of the LIRR Expansion Project in 2017, six fatal accidents took place at the crossings along the busy Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville.

This location will now enjoy reduced noise emanating from horns that are required to sound in the approach to a crossing, and the bells that sound as crossing gates come down to block roadway traffic. Along the busy LIRR Main Line, crossing gates during rush hour are in the down position up to 35 percent of the time during AM and PM peak hours, creating traffic backups and increasing exhaust from vehicles.

LIRR President Phil Eng addresses New Cassel community during the September 5th reopening of Urban Avenue that now allows vehicular traffic to cross under the LIRR tracks, avoiding delays from downed gates, noise from passing trains and reduced air quality from queueing automobiles.LIRR President Phil Eng addresses New Cassel community during the September 5th reopening of Urban Avenue that now allows vehicular traffic to cross under the LIRR tracks, avoiding delays from downed gates, noise from passing trains and reduced air quality from queueing automobiles.

The other railroad crossings that are being replaced by underpasses as part of the LIRR Expansion Project are at Covert Avenue in New Hyde Park, which closed in April and is slated to reopen this fall, New Hyde Park Road in New Hyde Park, School Street in New Cassel and two at Willis Avenue in Mineola.

The elimination of the Urban Avenue grade crossing is part of the LIRR Expansion Project to enhance the reliability of LIRR infrastructure and ultimately support growth and development on Long Island. For more information, construction photos and architectural renderings, please visit the Urban Avenue Grade Crossing Elimination project page on AModernLI.com.

The LIRR Expansion Project will add a third track from Floral Park to Hicksville, reducing train congestion and delays and enabling true bi-directional service during peak hours. The Project is part of a multibillion-dollar modernization of the Long Island Rail Road, the largest investment the railroad has received in decades. Once the work is complete, the LIRR will have increased its capacity by roughly 50 percent. With the additional planned upgrades to stations, amenities, bridges and grade crossing eliminations, the project will help transform transportation across the region and provide a reliable, state-of-the-art rail system for the people of Long Island. For more information and photos of ongoing construction, please visit the LIRR Expansion Project Floral Park to Hicksville project page on AModernLI.com.

Senator Anna M. Kaplan said, “This project has been a win-win-win, simultaneously increasing capacity for the Long Island Rail Road, improving public safety, and reducing local traffic. Most importantly, by completing this project on time, on budget, with limited disruption, and with significant community outreach, it shows that the MTA is committed to finding new, innovative solutions to yesterday’s problems. I applaud the hard working men and women who worked tirelessly on this great achievement, and I thank Governor Cuomo for setting an ambition agenda to improve the MTA and modernize the Long Island Rail Road.”

Assembly Member Michael A. Montesano said, “I was pleased to attend the ribbon cutting event for the completion of the overpass bridge at Urban Avenue in New Cassel. This project was completed on time and will be a terrific enhancement to a well-deserved community in delivering a more dependable operation by the LIRR as well as improve commuter safety, train delays and noise.”

Assembly Member Charles D. Lavine said, “The opening of the new roadway underpass at Urban Avenue in New Cassel is a prime example of the Long Island Rail Road’s commitment to safety and reliability. Not only does the new underpass contribute to the improvement of train operations, but it also reduces the risks of track crossing related incidents. I commend Phil Eng and the entire team at the Long Island Rail Road for their dedication to ensuring an improved experience for my constituents.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “The reopening of Urban Avenue in New Cassel marks the completion of the first of five LIRR grade crossings to be upgraded to an underpass, improving pedestrian safety while bettering the flow of traffic. I look forward to its completion, which will truly improve transportation, infrastructure and safety in Nassau County.”

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said: “Street level grade crossings should be a thing of the past in a busy suburban area like Nassau County, especially in light of the many tragedies that have occurred at such crossings. This new grade crossing will be life changing for the entire community as it increases safety and traffic flow. I am very pleased that the MTA was able to finish this complex project in a timely manner and minimize the inconvenience for both commuters and residents in the area.”

City Council Member Viviana Russell, who is a resident of New Cassel that lives in close proximity to Urban Avenue and has been closely involved with this project from the onset, said, “Residents here in the New Cassel community have been very patient and are pleased to see this project completed in a relatively short period of time considering the amount of work that was done. Although we have had many bumps in the road because of the very nature of this design-build project and the fact that Urban Avenue was the first grade elimination to be completed, it will greatly improve the quality of life for all those that are impacted by the railroad. Thank you to the Town of North Hempstead Department of Public Works Engineer Victor Thomas, all of the North Hempstead staff and all of the many women and men of the LIRR/MTA/3TC and laborers that make up the teams that got this project done.”

County Legislator Siela A. Bynoe said, “This significant investment in New Cassel’s infrastructure will make our roads safer, improve traffic flow along Urban Avenue by decreasing delays, and eliminate the air and noise pollution created by a grade crossing. Moreover with the Third Track and improved mass transit service on the horizon, I commend the MTA for their ongoing commitment to the communities they serve and am glad that Urban Avenue is once again open for motorists.”