From the Desk of Catherine Rinaldi: Good things come in threes, especially train tracks

From the Desk of Catherine Rinaldi: Good things come in threes, especially train tracks

It’s been said that good things come in threes, and soon Long Islanders will find out why. By early 2023, LIRR riders will get the full benefit from three transformational projects: a Third Track on the Main Line, the opening of Grand Central Madison, and a rebuilt LIRR Concourse at Penn Station. Earlier this week Gov. Kathy Hochul joined local elected officials and the MTA for a ceremonial ride to celebrate the commissioning of one section of the Third Track between Floral Park and New Hyde Park stations.

The Third Track project will ensure reliable, frequent service benefiting residents across the region and revolutionizing the LIRR. For decades, only two tracks ran between the critical 10-mile stretch from Floral Park to Hicksville. This expanse has wreaked havoc on hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders, causing delays and noise pollution and hurting the quality of life for anyone traveling during peak hours.

Currently, 40% of LIRR service uses the corridor, serving exponentially more travelers than originally intended. The span is so busy that during rush hour, LIRR trains run in the same direction on both tracks to keep up with heavy demand. This limits reverse commuting opportunities to employment centers on Long Island, hampering business’s ability to attract talent from a larger pool of workers. It also prevents NYC residents and others from accessing schools, healthcare or some of the fantastic recreation Long Island has to offer.

These tracks had multiple at-grade railroad crossings and low bridges. The low bridges were frequently hit by trucks, requiring inspections and clearance before trains could resume service. At this critical span of track, any delay would ripple across multiple LIRR branches, causing massive delays for thousands of riders. These pain points didn’t just cause havoc for LIRR riders, but for the local communities as well. Due to the frequency of trains, some crossings would be closed to traffic for upwards of 35 minutes during peak travel, creating congestion, noise, and air pollution.

Adding an additional track enables the LIRR to run significantly more service, including reverse-peak trains, and gives us expanded operational flexibility. We eliminated all grade crossings, building underpasses or closing intersections. We raised and widened bridges to prevent collisions and ensure seamless service. Crews built an entire new track and installed a modern signal system. Long Island businesses will now have access to an expanded pool of talent, residents along the Main Line will have quieter, safer neighborhoods, and LIRR riders will no longer face crushing delays.

And the cherry on top of this cake? Third Track is coming in under budget and ahead of schedule. The Third Track project, like the LIRR trains that will use it, will serve customers across the region. It is part of an entire plan of infrastructure improvements that will ease train congestion at Penn Station, introduce LIRR service to Grand Central Terminal, increase capacity at Jamaica station and improve service into Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Before you know it, Long Islanders will have local stations that are safer, modern and more accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They’ll board trains on a railroad with more flexibility, modern switch and signal systems and fewer delays caused by bridge strikes and grade crossing issues. They’ll arrive at a newly remodeled, world class Penn Station and walk through a wider, brighter concourse with 18-foot-high ceilings on their way to work or a day of New York City entertainment. Third Track is coming, proving that when it comes to the LIRR, good things do come in threes.

Catherine Rinaldi is the LIRR interim president and Metro-North Railroad president

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  1. Congratulations to the LIRR on the third track improvement. I remember when I commuted to the city there were the usual delays between track capacity delays and equipment breakdown. I found the the find that the conductors were always pleasant and helpful and kept the passengers well informed during the delays.

    I am retired and I moved down south but I still Google Long Island news and subscribe to Newsday. I don’t understand why the only representative on Long Island to vote against the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan was Lee Zeldin who is running for governor. NYS stands to get over $100 billion in Federal funding for badly needed infrastructure. I hope he is able to justify to the public his negative vote in one of the upcoming debates. Some of that is planned to be used for LIRR improvements


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