Heated waiting rooms, USB charging stations and a host of other aesthetic and technological upgrades are in store for the Long Island Rail Road’s aging Hicksville Station.
The $121 million modernization of the 55-year-old station was one of two major capital-investment initiatives Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week, each targeting a “central hub” of the LIRR. Also announced: a $64.9 million construction effort at Jamaica Station – the railroad’s most-central central hub – bringing new tracks and platforms.
Both projects are supported by the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Program, a $29 billion investment in railroads, subway and bus lines, bridges and tunnels in and around New York City.
Work has already begun in Hicksville, according to the governor’s office, and Phase 1 of the Jamaica Capacity Improvements Project, which has been in development since 2010, will commence soon.
“Revamping these two heavily trafficked transportation hubs will provide better, faster and more reliable train service for Long Island Rail Road riders,” Cuomo said in a statement, adding “transportation investment has a ripple effect of progress and economic growth.”
“These projects are part of this administration’s aggressive and comprehensive plan to revamp the state’s infrastructure,” Cuomo noted.
In addition to alleviating the “Jamaica crawl,” the commuter nightmare that has long slowed trains moving into and out of the railroad’s busy transfer point, work at the Queens station will result in a new platform with glass-enclosed and heated waiting areas, new lighting, colored glass by New York artist James Little and technological niceties including Wi-Fi and USB charging ports.
The new platform is slated to be completed by 2019. But commuters just might cheer loudest for the new track installations, which will make it easier for the LIRR to re-route trains, work around track disruptions and provide supplemental service to and from Atlantic Terminal, a major convenience for riders attending concerts and professional sporting events at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“More tracks and platforms mean fewer delays,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast, who called the start of Phase 1 “great news” for a train station marking its 103rd birthday this year.
“The Jamaica Station project … will help make traveling easier and more convenient for both Queens residents and for the many visitors who transfer to the Long Island Rail Road at Jamaica after they take the AirTrain from JFK Airport,” agreed Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
Sixteen miles east, the Hicksville station – which opened in 1961 – will also get Wi-Fi and USB-charging bells and whistles, as well as glass-enclosed waiting areas, improved lighting and stairways, upgraded escalators and elevators, a new video security system, modern audio enhancements and all-new signage.
With construction underway, the new station – highlighted by the work of NYC artist Roy Nicholson, whose creations already grace Los Angeles’ Union Station and other public facilities – is expected to be completed by the spring of 2018.
The Hicksville station project is one of several LIRR projects covered by the 2013 Project Labor Agreement between the LIRR and the Buildings and Construction Trade Council of Nassau and Suffolk.
It also coincides with a number of LIRR-improvement efforts championed by Cuomo, including the long-debated “third track” between Floral Park and Hicksville – a busy railroad stretch legendary for its bottlenecks – and the Long Island Rail Road Double Track project, designed to increase capacity of the Ronkonkoma branch between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma.
“The modernization and expansion of the Long Island Rail Road is critical to the economic growth of our region,” noted Kevin Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association. “We commend Governor Cuomo’s historic investments in infrastructure projects like the ‘third track’ and Double Track, as well as the reconstruction of a brand-new LIRR station at one of our busiest hubs in Hicksville.”