More than two dozen Long Island Rail Road projects were completed in 2019 in an effort to modernize the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Station enhancements, bridge construction and grade crossing eliminations were implemented at various locations across the North Shore. Representatives from the MTA and LIRR said they were pleased to see the progression of projects and new technology on Long Island.
“The ability for the Long Island Rail Road to improve service for today’s riders while building for the future needs of Long Island is paramount,” LIRR President Phil Eng said in a news release. “These expansion projects coupled with our LIRR Forward initiatives will give us the flexibility we need to provide more robust service and get our customers where they need to go on time.”
Six of the construction projects that were conducted are part of the LIRR Expansion Project, which will add a third railroad track from Floral Park to Hicksville. The work, which began at the end of 2018, will reduce passenger and train congestion and delays, according to MTA representatives.
“The LIRR Expansion Project is moving forward at a remarkable pace, and it is now about one-third complete and is on schedule and under budget,” MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber said. “This project is the model project for how we are changing the way we manage capital projects to do them better, faster and cheaper.”
According to an MTA news release, bridges below 14 feet in height are vulnerable to overheight vehicles striking them. For the past two years, the Nassau Boulevard Bridge in Garden City was struck 16 times. From Oct. 5-6, LIRR crews raised the height of the bridge from 11 feet 6 inches to 14 feet.
The Cherry Lane Bridge, approximately a quarter-mile from the Carle Place station, was removed and replaced with a taller three-track structure from June 1-2. The original structure had been in service for more than 65 years and endured multiple truck strikes, causing delays on the LIRR.
The South Tyson Avenue Bridge in the Village of Floral Park was also built more than 60 years ago prior to its 2019 renovation. After 2,000 hours of construction, a new two-track bay bridge was installed in September.
From 2007 to 2017, six fatal crashes occurred at grade crossing locations in the LIRR Main Line corridor. The elimination of grade crossings along the line is a prominent safety and reliability feature in the expansion project.
The Urban Avenue grade crossing in New Cassel was one of eight along the Main Line that were eliminated in 2019. From July 20-21, LIRR crews constructed a 1,200-ton structure that bears train tracks above the two-lane underpass for vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Three months later, the Covert Avenue grade crossing in New Hyde Park was reconstructed to provide a two-lane underpass with a sidewalk on the east side for pedestrian use. A news release by the MTA said the area long posed a safety risk to drivers, pedestrians, and LIRR costumers, and heavily contributed to noise and air pollution.
Renovations were conducted for existing station infrastructure and track throughout the course of the year.
The newly designed Port Washington substation replaces an earlier design that had been in service for more than 30 years. Renovations cost $26.2 million for the substation, one of 14 that are prepared to handle the anticipated growth in train service once the Third Track project is completed.
The additions of LED lighting, USB charging ports, free Wi-Fi, and interactive kiosks at the Great Neck station rounded out the more prominent modifications around the North Shore. The MTA announced continued renovations at the Floral Park, Merillon Avenue, Mineola Avenue and New Hyde Park stations for the coming year, along with the elimination of a Mineola grade crossing, located at the intersection of Willis Avenue and Third Street.
“Our Operation and Engineering staff and the entire LIRR workforce really worked hard to make sure projects were continued with as little interruption to customer service as possible and completed on time,” Eng said. “We appreciate the patience of our customers and the communities that we serve throughout this critical work.”