By GREGORY ZELLER //
Just two years after Gov. Andrew Cuomo accelerated plans for a Long Island Rail Road overhaul, the long-awaited “Double Track” project has been completed – more than a year ahead of schedule.
Cuomo on Friday announced the completion of the LIRR Double Track, roughly 18 miles of track added between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, expected to ease congestion and allow for reverse-peak service expansions as necessary.
The 18 miles of track – including 13 miles of new track added to an existing five-mile stretch of previously unused track – beefs up a segment of the LIRR traversed by 48,000 daily riders and represents a big chunk of Albany’s $6.6 billion railroad overhaul.
The Double Track allows the LIRR to immediately offer “substantial reverse-peak service on the Ronkonkoma Line in the mornings and evenings,” according to the governor’s office, while reinforcing schedule reliability by allowing dispatchers the “flexibility to route trains around problems that may arise.”
A host of LIRR scheduling changes – including the extension of lines that previously terminated in Farmingdale and other commuter-friendly changes – accompany the opening of the new tracks.
Cuomo proudly trumpeted the Double Track project’s early completion on Friday, noting it “demonstrates our commitment to delivering results.”
“After 70 years of stagnation, we are investing $6.6 billion in 100 projects to completely transform the LIRR and improve service,” the governor said. “Projects like the Double Track and Third Track will help support future growth and vastly improve riders’ experience on the busiest commuter rail in the country.”
The $2 billion “Third Track” plan – a five-year LIRR expansion project placing a third LIRR line between Hicksville and the Queens border, relieving a legendary 10-mile bottleneck – is also steaming ahead, with completion expected sometime in 2022.
But Friday was all about the successful Double Track project, which also includes a new signaling system, electrical substation modifications and state-of-the-art third-rail electrical systems.
Cuomo on Friday also announced the official opening of a new and fully accessible Wyandanch Train Station, a centerpiece of the Town of Babylon’s ambitious downtown redevelopment efforts and another of the 100 upgrades planned for the LIRR, which the governor dubbed “the lifeblood of the region’s economy.”
Early completion of the Double Track project will also “free up LIRR resources” that can be directed toward some of those other upgrades, according to the governor’s office, which referenced the Third Track, East Side Access and Mid-Suffolk Train Storage Yard projects as likely beneficiaries.
“Work [on the Double Track] proceeded quickly to minimize impact to the customers and the local community,” MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber said in a statement. “In that respect, this project was a forerunner of the approach we will be taking along the Third Track corridor, minimizing disruption and maintaining continuous inclusion of the local communities.”
“We’re making significant investments to transform the Long Island Rail Road, and the completion of the new Double Track will significantly reduce delays and ease traffic,” added Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. “We’re cutting through red tape to deliver ahead of schedule because we prioritize our commuters.”