By Kristy O’Connell and Noah Manskar
New Hyde Park’s mayor questioned Tuesday night whether the final environmental statement for the Long Island Rail Road’s third track project sufficiently addressed concerns that engineers raised on the village’s behalf.
Though he has not yet reviewed the entire final environmental impact statement that was released on April 12, Mayor Lawrence Montreuil said his initial reaction is that it is not much different from the draft environmental impact statement released in November.
The LIRR wants to build a third track along a key 9.8-mile stretch of its Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville. The $2 billion project would take three to four years to build and would also eliminate seven street-level railroad crossings along the corridor.
The Vertex Companies, an engineering firm hired by New Hyde Park, Floral Park and Garden City to review the draft statement, had raised concerns about the actual need for the project, given what it called Long Island’s stagnant population growth.
The LIRR responded with projections and statistics from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, a regional planning organization, which says Long Island’s population will grow 12 percent by 2040.
Montreuil said he has not yet reviewed the council’s data for dependability. But the final environmental statement says its numbers “are considered the authoritative data for projecting future transportation needs.”
Vertex’s comments on the villages’ behalf also asked for more specific information about how the project would make the LIRR system more reliable.
But “the LIRR just came up with more anecdotal stories of train cancellations, so it doesn’t look like they’re heeding a lot of the comments that came out of Vertex,” Montreuil said.
Beveridge & Diamond, a law firm representing the three villages, is reviewing the document and will be providing feedback to determine how to move forward, Montreuil said.
The environmental statement argues that the third track would provide for more consistent east- and westbound service during rush hours.
It would also give trains a route around problems or obstacles on the two-track Main Line, which can currently cause delays throughout the system, the document argues.
On Wednesday, the New Hyde Park Board of Trustees was set to meet with an urban planner to discuss how the project is expected to affect the character of the community.
Bob Johnson, a New Hyde Park resident, wanted to know if the village’s additional feedback will be taken into consideration by the LIRR.
“We have an open dialogue with the railroad and I’m hopeful that even though not everything we expressed made it into the final statement, I am still hopeful that our continuing dialogue will be fruitful,” Montreuil said.
Project officials continue to collect feedback and meet with local officials about the project.
With regard to the construction of sound barrier walls on the south side of the railroad tracks, Johnson said he is concerned that the north side of the tracks is being “shortchanged due to the fact that it’s industrial.”
While the LIRR may argue that tall buildings serve as barriers to the noise, there are still residents who live just 200 feet from the tracks, Johnson said.
The final environmental statement says the project would ultimately reduce noise by about 10 decibels throughout the corridor by adding the walls and ending noise from train horns and crossing bells by eliminating the street-level crossings.
The final environmental statement can be viewed on amodernLI.com, along with renderings for the proposed project.