Letter to the Editor: Air Train project could affect LIRR’s Port Washington branch


A legal notice concerning the Federal Aviation Administration LaGuardia Air Train appeared in the Aug. 24 edition of Newsday. While reading the fine print, I found what I believe would give those of us who use the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington branch reason for concern about potential adverse impacts of this project.

The fourth paragraph begins with the words “The Proposed Action also includes various connected activities…modifications to the MTA LIRR Mets Willets Point Station, including service changes to the LIRR Port Washington Line.” Just how would this impact LIRR Port Washington and other branch customers’ access to New York Mets games, other events at Citi Field, US Open, Arthur Ash Stadium, along with Flushing Meadow Park and the Queens Zoo?

How long would construction of the new $2.05 billion LaGuardia Air Train LIRR Station take from start to finish? Based upon my past experience working for the Federal Transit Administration in funding previous LIRR station projects, I would have to venture a minimum of two years. We will not know the details until the Port Authority awards a construction contract. This would be followed by the contractor providing a detailed construction schedule for the Port Authority to review and approve. It would have to include agreed-upon track outages and potential speed restrictions through the work zone with MTA and LIRR. The LIRR would have to provide Force Account (its own employees) to support this project. They are required to provide protection for any contractors’ employees who are working adjacent to the active Port Washington branch tracks. Force account employees also control train movements through the work zone.

How long would service be impacted on the Port Washington LIRR Branch?

Will there be speed restrictions for trains moving through the work zone adjacent to the tracks resulting in longer commuting time?

Would any rush hour trains have to be combined or canceled?.

Would any off-peak weekday and weekend service be reduced from every 30 minutes to every hour to accommodate construction?

Will there be any total weekend service outages as took place on the Main Line Third Track project during the installation of overpasses?

When service disruptions take place on the No. 7 Flushing subway line, MetroCards are cross honored by the MTA LIRR. These MTA NYC Transit subway riders are allowed to ride trains on the LIRR Port Washington branch. If there is reduced service on the Port Washington branch due to construction of the new LaGuardia Air Train Station, how would this impact the ability of LIRR to accommodate thousands of NYC Transit No. 7 subway riders?

I wonder when project supporters of the $2.05 billion LaGuardia Air Train, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton, construction contractors, labor unions and lobbyists will come forward and address these vital issues to Port Washington LIRR branch riders. Will local village, town, county, state Assembly and state Senate elected officials speak up on behalf of their constituents who utilize the LIRR Port Washington branch on this issue as well?

Larry Penner

Great Neck

(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus, NICE Bus, NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ). .

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The Island Now

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