How To Expand Port Washington Branch LIRR Service East of Great Neck
LIRR President Catherine Renaldi was not totally candid at a recent press conference held at the Port Washington LIRR Station. She announced restoration of six Port Washington branch rush hour express trains to Penn Station when service begins to Grand Central Madison in December. (“Express service to remain on LIRR Port line” – Oct. 7). My old friends at the LIRR did not tell the whole story when they said service on the Port Washington branch could be expanded if they could add train storage capacity at the existing Port Washington Yard.
There are other alternatives which would support increased service, especially for those who are reverse peak commuters.
What happened to the planning study previous LIRR President Phil Eng promised from several years ago to look into either electrification of existing diesel branches or in the case of the Port Washington branch, double tracking between Great Neck and Port Washington? Is LIRR Acting President Catherine Renaldi even aware of this study and commitment from her predecessor? The same for local elected officials such as state Sen. Ann Kaplan and state Assembly member Gina Sillitti, who were also in attendance at the press conference.
Adding passing sidings or double tracking is the only solution for improved bi-directional service between Port Washington and Great Neck. This is actually more important than expansion of the Port Washington LIRR Yard. Even with expansion of the Port Washington Yard, at some point you run out of trains to run westbound in the AM peak.
It would also not solve the problem of bidirectional service gaps for reverse peak services between Great Neck and Port Washington to and from both Penn Station and Grand Central Madison. Double tracking between Great Neck and Port Washington would go a long way in support of the MTA’s promised 40% increase in reverse rush hour service as well.
At another recent event celebrating the completion of the $2.6 billion Main Line Third Track project, (“Main Line Third Track Completed On Time and Under Budget” – Oct. 7), Gov. Kathy Hochul, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber and LIRR President Renaldi proudly announced that the project has come in at $100 million under budget. Port Jefferson, Huntington, Ronkonkoma, Oyster Bay and to a limited extent Babylon, Patchogue and Speonk commuters via the Central Branch (east of Hicksville to Babylon bypassing the Babylon branch) will see increased service as a result.
Last year’s completion for double tracking the Ronkonkoma branch will provide service off peak every 30 minutes vs. the previous hourly schedule. Port Washington branch customers do not obtain the same benefits as those commuters on these other branches. Isn’t it time for Port Washington riders to see additional tracks just as those on the other branches?
If $100 million in savings for construction of the Main Line Third Track are real and not just on paper, why not use them to pay for improvements such as double tracking or adding passing sidings east of Great Neck on to Port Washington? Why not build a second Manhasset viaduct over East Shore Road and double track up to just west of the Manhasset Station? How about continuing double tracking or adding passing sidings starting at the Manhasset Station and continue east to the Port Washington station?
As a longtime Great Neck resident and rider going back to the 1970s, I can tell you firsthand that this has been ignored for decades.
(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions of dollars in grants which provided funding for capital projects and programs to the MTA, LIRR, New Jersey Transit and over 30 transit agencies within New York State)