The street-level train crossing at School street will be removed as part of the proposed $2bn Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) expansion project. Image courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The Mineola station is one of the five stations to undergo refurbishment under the expansion project. Image courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The 103-year-old Westbury’s Post Avenue Bridge on the Main Line was replaced in October 2017 to facilitate the addition of a third track. Image courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.

The proposed $2bn Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) expansion project involves the addition of a third track along a 9.8-mile (15.77km) stretch of the Main Line corridor from Floral Park to Hicksville train station in New York, US.

A part of the larger $5.6bn LIRR transformation project, the expansion will eliminate seven street-level train crossings along the route and replace 20 miles (32.18km) of track with new signals and switches. It will also upgrade the railroad infrastructure and stations, as well as add new parking facilities.

The expansion project was announced in January 2016, and the final environmental impact statement was completed in April 2017. Construction on the project is expected to begin later in 2017.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) proposed to complete the expansion through a design-build mechanism. The project will be financed under the MTA Capital Program, as well as through other state funds.

LIRR expansion project details

The LIRR expansion project is part of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to transform the MTA and enhance transit and transportation facilities throughout New York. The third track will be laid within the existing LIRR right-of-way, and will not need the acquisition of any residential property.

“The expansion project was announced in January 2016, and the final environmental impact statement was completed in April 2017.”

The expansion will remove street-level railroad crossings (grade crossings) at seven places namely Covert Avenue, S.12th, New Hyde Park Road, Main Street, Willis Avenue, School Street, and Urban Avenue.

Five stations, namely New Hyde Park, Mineola, Carle Place, Merillon Avenue, and Westbury, will be improved to facilitate the third track. The improvements will also enhance ADA accessibility, pedestrian access, lighting, landscaping and other visual elements, as well as platforms and passenger waiting areas.

The length of some of the stations will be increased in order to facilitate the passengers to disembark from 12-car trains without going to the front of a train.

The project also calls for increasing the height of seven bridges along the line from 12.5ft to 14ft.

In addition to supporting current service plans, the expansion project will also support the LIRR’s East Side Access Project, which will allow the Long Island commuters to travel to Grand Central Station and the East Side of Manhattan.

LIRR expansion project benefits

The addition of new track between the Floral Park and Hicksville stations on the highly congested Main Line is expected to create better services for approximately more than half a million passengers a week. The Main Line currently carries approximately 40% of LIRR’s 308,000 daily ridership.

The third line will also reduce train congestion and delays on the Main Line. It will improve bi-directional services for both peak and reverse-peak direction commuters, as well as more intra-Island service.

The addition of reliable rail service also reduces the number of automobile trips thereby minimising greenhouse gas emissions.

Westbury’s Post Avenue Bridge Replacement

As part of the third track construction, the 103-year-old Westbury’s Post Avenue Bridge carrying the Main Line over Post Avenue in Westbury was replaced in October 2017. The new bridge is 13ft wider than the old one, while the height has been increased by two feet and two inches enabling the safe passage of trucks of up to 14ft-high.

Nanuet-based engineering and construction firm Halmar International completed the bridge replacement, under a design-build contract awarded by the MTA in November 2016.

Parking facilities developed under the LIRR expansion project

The expansion is expected to create 3,853 parking spaces through the construction of six new parking garages and a surface parking lot. The parking facilities will be constructed near New Hyde Park, Mineola, Westbury, and Hicksville Stations.

The surface parking lot will have 95 spaces at 115 New Hyde Park Road between Plaza Avenue and Second Avenue, New Hyde Park.

Being built in coordination with the villages of Mineola, Westbury, and the Town of Oyster Bay, the parking facilities will also integrate on-site management offices.

Contractors involved

The joint venture of Gannett Fleming and AECOM was awarded a $6.95m contract for conducting an environmental review, preliminary engineering, and formal community engagement process for the LIRR mainline expansion project.

Details of the Long Island Rail Road Transformation project

The Long Island Rail Road transformation project represents the biggest investment being made in the railroad segment in recent decades. It is aimed at minimising congestion on the Long Island Expressway, Northern and Southern State Parkways, and Grand Central and Belt Parkways.

The transformation also includes projects such as the Main Line Third Track, Double Track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, Jamaica Station Reconstruction, East Side Access Project, and the elimination of grade crossing.

The upgrades are expected to increase the line capacity by more than 80% and help modernise transportation across the region along with a state-of-the-art rail system for Long Islanders.