New York Gov. Hochul joins MTA chair for ceremonial first ride on LIRR's new Third Track

Aug. 16, 2022
The three mile section runs from Floral Park to Merillon Avenue.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) leaders were joined by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul for a ceremonial first ride to announce the opening of the first section of the Long Island Rail Road's (LIRR) new Main Line Third Track.

Officials rode on a just-opened three-mile stretch of track between Floral Park and Merillon Avenue Stations, disembarking at the upgraded New Hyde Park Station.

"The opening of the Third Track marks a huge milestone for commuters and visitors that is decades in the making," Gov. Hochul said. "Thanks to this extraordinary project, LIRR trains will run more often, and passengers will have a smoother ride than ever. Our partners at the MTA and the hard-working women and men of organized labor delivered an on-time, under budget project — and that's something worth celebrating."

The LIRR Main Line Expansion Project is part of an unprecedented investment of $17.7 billion in 100 projects to transform and modernize LIRR that also includes the opening of service to Grand Central Madison this year, construction of a more spacious Penn Station LIRR Concourse and a new entrance at 33rd Street, renewal and upgrading of 36 stations and 17 bridges, elimination of eight at-grade railroad crossings, activation of the Positive Train Control safety system, addition of 13 miles of second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, upgrades to 15 electrical substations, parking capacity increases, yard expansions and more. In addition to these transformational investments, the MTA, together with New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, plan to seek federal funding later this year to rebuild Penn Station into a modern, spacious, world-class single-level terminal that is open to natural light.

Major construction on the third track began in late 2018, and when fully opened later this year, commuters along the Main Line corridor will have a mass transit solution that reduces road congestion and improves safety. Long Island businesses will reap the benefits of true bi-directional LIRR service that will fuel economic opportunity, enhance the knowledge economy and provide increased access to jobs and entertainment.

"Long Island leaders have talked for generations about adding a Third Track and finally it's here," said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. "The MTA is investing billions in Long Island and the results are clear: more frequent service and greater reliability, along with strengthened reverse commuting service to give Long Island businesses access to a much bigger labor pool."

When combined with the opening of Grand Central Madison, the LIRR's third track creates the ability to run more service on the Mainline. At New Hyde Park, service will increase by 67 percent. Currently, 56 trains run on weekdays. Under the new schedule, there will be 94.

LIRR Interim President and Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi said, "The beginning of the LIRR Third Track is here and now Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson/Huntington and Oyster Bay branch customers will finally start to see the benefits of this transformative project. The Third Track team has upgraded stations with a host of modern amenities, created a more resilient system that can better handle service disruptions, and made it easier for LIRR customers to make convenient reverse peak trips."

MTA Construction & Development President Jamie Torres-Springer added, "Commissioning the first block of the LIRR Third Track is a major milestone as we deliver this transformative project on time and under budget for Long Islanders. Thanks to the ingenuity and hard work of our workforce, we've done so while minimizing disruption to neighboring communities and, crucially, while maintaining service and running hundreds of trains daily through our 10-mile-long work zone. This project is our model going forward as we deliver great benefits for our customers better, faster, and cheaper."

The construction of this third track from Floral Park to Hicksville will reduce train congestion and delays and enable true bi-directional service during peak hours with a more reliable rail network.

The New Hyde Park and Merillon Avenue Stations are upgraded with expanded platforms, digital signage, new platform canopies, furnishings and accoutrements including benches, shelters and signage, CCTV security cameras to improve safety, Wi-Fi; USB charging stations, artwork, new bike racks and plazas with green space.

Each station is now more ADA accessible featuring new ramps, a pedestrian overpass and new ADA parking spaces.

Three railroad grade crossings between New Hyde Park and Merillon Avenue Stations (New Hyde Park Road, South 12th Street, Covert Avenue) were eliminated, creating a safer and more reliable railroad. Eliminating these at-grade crossings benefits the environment because there will no longer be idling vehicles stuck behind crossing gates as LIRR trains pass through. These are three of the eight crossings that have been eliminated overall as part of the Third Track Project, and the need to eliminate these grade crossings was further illustrated by six fatal collisions at grade crossing locations in the LIRR Main Line corridor between 2007 to 2017.

Nearby residents will no longer have to deal with the sounding of train horns and crossing bells. Traffic backups due to the closure of crossing gates and over-height truck collisions with railroad bridges will also be a thing of past.

MTA says the LIRR Main Line Expansion Project is on schedule and $100 million below budget.