Long overdue, a third track on the Long Island Rail Road’s mainline will finally become a reality. With strong support from Governor Andrew Cuomo, the final step in approving the project—approval of a revised MTA capital plan by the Capital Program Review Board that includes representatives from both the houses of the New York State legislature—was announced yesterday, July 11.
Today, trains from four branches of the LIRR squeeze onto two branches of the mainline from New Hyde Park to Farmingdale, preventing anything close to adequate service for Manhattan-bound commuters at rush hour, and disrupting service if one line is backed up or impeded. Expanding service on the main line fills a major gap in the region’s rail network and will provide a significant boost to the Long Island economy.
This victory was a long time coming. Regional Plan Association called for the third track in its 1996 regional plan, was part of the coalition advocating for its construction in the 2000s and renewed attention to the project in 2013 with a report for the Long Island Index, How the Long Island Rail Road Could Shape the Next Economy. The Rauch Foundation took up the cause, and with unflagging commitment and support from important allies like the Long Island Association, revived a project that was dead in the water. An important part was communication with and commitments to affected communities by the LIRR and MTA.
With RPA soon to release its next regional plan, success on the third track is a reminder of what can be accomplished with sound research, community engagement and persistent advocacy.
Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority