After decades of debate, $2B LIRR ‘third track’ is a go

Third kind: The MTA has approved a nearly $2B deal to design and build the LIRR's long-awaited "third track."

All aboard – the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved a roughly $2 billion deal to design and build the Long Island Rail Road’s long-debated “third track.”

The contract approved Wednesday by the MTA Board of Directors with Lawrence-based 3rd Track Constructors – a joint venture uniting New York City-based Dragados USA Inc., Lawrence-based John P. Picone Inc., Nanuet-based Halmar International LLC and Brooklyn-based CCA Civil Inc. – officially weighed in at $1.9 billion, with project costs slated to climb as high as $2.6 billion when all is said and done in 2022.

The five-year LIRR Expansion Project aims to construct a third LIRR line to ease a nearly 10-mile bottleneck between Hicksville and the Queens border, a critical pressure point legendary for service disruptions and delays.

Decades of debate about just such a plan have split Long Island in two, with opponents citing project costs and residential noise and property concerns, and proponents insisting the third track is required modernization for the nation’s busiest commuter railroad – and after decades of delays along the 9.8-mile stretch between Floral Park and Hicksville, a logistical necessity.

Kevin Law: Commendable effort.

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeatedly prioritizing the expansion and socioeconomic forces rallying behind a revised plan that, among other benefits, boasts a negligible environmental impact and exists entirely on LIRR property, the third track has consistently gained steam in recent years.

The proposal – which includes the construction of multiple parking structures and also removes several street-level railroad crossings along the construction route, among other safety enhancements – cleared a last hurdle in July, when State Senate Republicans signed off on public funding for the roughly $2 billion effort.

Long Island Association President Kevin Law, who co-chaired the grassroots Right Track for Long Island Coalition with former Greenport Mayor (and current Rauch Foundation consultant) Dave Kapell, told Innovate LI he commended the MTA board for finally approving a design-and-construction deal.

“Now, construction can commence on the most important infrastructure project to move forward on Long Island in decades,” Law said.