Did you know we have an entire team tasked with keeping workers and residents healthy and safe?
Meet Maria Hall: the woman behind the scenes who leads the LIRR Expansion Project’s environmental experts.
Environmental compliance and monitoring are vital components to the construction process. In 2016, when Governor Andrew Cuomo first announced the project, the LIRR conducted an extensive environmental process with unprecedented community outreach. In cooperation with these towns and villages, the LIRR established a comprehensive list of environmental commitments the project’s design-build contractor, 3rd Track Constructors (3TC), must adhere to during construction of the project.
LIRR Environmental Lead Maria Hall and her team work tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of Expansion Project crews and corridor residents remains unimpacted during construction. Among the chief concerns for Maria and her team are air quality and dust, soil quality, and noise and vibration from construction activities.
The LIRR Expansion Project in its first year has made significant progress, and remains on schedule for 2022 completion. The team has broken ground at multiple project sites as cranes tower in the air throughout the project corridor, and modernized infrastructure milestones are a regular occurrence, including five bridge installations between the beginning of June and the beginning of October. Every element of the project has specific environmental requirements, and these are all tackled on an ongoing basis by LIRR Environmental Lead Maria Hall.
AMLI chatted with LIRR’s Maria Hall, Third Track’s technical lead for all things environmental, to get the scoop on the team’s cutting-edge approach to compliance.
AMLI: Tell us a little about your background and how you got here.
MH: After receiving an undergraduate degree in Geology, I worked in environmental consulting for about a decade, focusing primarily on groundwater issues and site investigations. Eventually it was time for a change, and I heard about an opportunity with the LIRR. And somehow, I just celebrated my 20th anniversary with the Railroad!
AMLI: What have been some of the biggest environmental challenges on Third Track?
MH: It’s changed over time. During the planning phase, we got so many questions about the subsurface soil conditions—some residents were convinced the soil was contaminated from the historic use of various herbicides. In response to these concerns, we enacted an incredibly comprehensive sampling program throughout the 10-mile corridor. The results were very reassuring. We posted all the data online and held multiple public meetings to explain the information.
AMLI: After that dust settled, so to speak, what other environmental issues took center stage?
MH: Once construction activities ramped up, we started getting comments about noise and vibration. We worked closely with 3TC, the project’s design-builder, to implement solutions that help maintain quality-of-life during construction.
AMLI: Like those big green noise blankets that line the construction fences?
MH: Exactly. 3TC had originally used a different type of sound attenuation, and we didn’t think it was effective enough for the residential neighborhoods. We worked together to get a more sophisticated type of barrier to absorb construction noise—they’re reusable, weatherproof, and fire retardant, so we can use them over and over at multiple sites.
AMLI: Points for sustainability. Any high-tech tools in use?
MH: Yes, we have digital apps! My field inspectors use an app to upload observations from daily inspection checklists, which I can access in real-time. We have noise and vibration monitoring stations at construction sites. When readings rise to a threshold level, we get immediate text and email alerts. Oftentimes the source is unrelated to the project — a passing fire truck or a resident with a leaf blower — but the system allows us to investigate quickly. Right now we have about 15 monitoring stations deployed in the field. We can be everywhere!
Vibranalysis station tracking noise and vibrations levels at building near Mineola Harrison Garage construction site February 2019.
The LIRR Expansion Project is setting high standards for construction, and this includes its environmental monitoring commitments. The construction of a third track from Floral Park to Hicksville will reduce train congestion and delays and enable true bi-directional service during peak hours with a more reliable rail network. This transformative work includes several related projects, including the construction of parking garages, retaining walls, improvements to rail bridges and the removal of eight street-level grade crossings. Construction is being managed to minimize the impact on daily routines, with extensive mitigation and public outreach efforts in local communities. For more information, please visit LIRR Expansion Project Floral Park to Hicksville project page on AModernLI.com.