Progress being made on Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project

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Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials announced the recent progress on the Long Island Rail Road's Expansion Project. (Photo from The Island Now archives)

More progress has been made to modernize the Long Island Rail Road with interlockings being installed in two locations and the elimination of the final railroad crossing in New Hyde Park.

Workers recently installed two interlockings, pieces of infrastructure critical to prepare for  installation of a third track.  The interlockings will allow trains to move from one track to another with the use of a series of switches.

“Once the LIRR Expansion Project is complete, the interlockings and third track will provide the railroad with the ability to increase service by nearly 50 percent, route trains around problem areas, and provide true bidirectional service during peak morning and afternoon periods,” officials said in a news release last week.

The two interlockings were installed in the past few months, one just east of the Merillon Avenue station and the other east of the Mineola station.  Officials said most of the work is conducted during double-track outages.

The progress on interlockings is part of the Long Island Rail Road’s Expansion Project, which is adding a third track from Floral Park to Hicksville.  The project, officials said, will reduce train congestion and delays to create a more reliable railroad system.

Officials said the third track in the area east of the Merillon Avenue station will be installed next summer.

Saturday also saw the elimination of the last of three crossings on the Main Line in New Hyde Park, as the South 12th Street crossing was permanently closed.  Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers are expected to replace the crossing with ramps to an underpass that allows pedestrians and people in wheelchairs to safely travel to either side of the tracks.

“The closure of this crossing is a historic, major win after many previous efforts to eliminate the grade crossings failed,” said Janno Lieber, the MTA’s president of construction and development. “This crossing closure is the latest evidence that the LIRR Expansion Project is not slowing down because of the pandemic. This project is critical for Long Island, it’s critical for the LIRR, funding is secure and we’re not letting the pandemic get in the way.”

Transit authority officials stressed the need for the elimination of grade crossings after six fatal crashes at Main Line corridor crossing locations from 2007 to 2017.

“One less crossing means one less potential point of conflict between trains and roadway users,” Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng said. “Every crossing that is eliminated helps us run a safer railroad and one less prone to delays that come from potential incidents. Replacing this crossing with a pedestrian underpass is great for the community and it is great for the railroad.”

The New Hyde Park area has seen two other grade crossings eliminated at Covert Avenue and New Hyde Park Road over the past year.  The pedestrian underpass for the South 12th Street location is scheduled to open within six months, according to transit officials. Platforms at the New Hyde Park station are also being lengthened and positioned to accommodate the Main Line’s new third track.

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