MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Long Island Rail Road commuters who put up with record delays and cancellations complain that they infrastructure is simply obsolete.
Many are wondering if a proposed project to build a third rail track can be the game changer the largest commuter railroad in the country needs.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reports, thousands of people are throwing their support behind the project, collecting 4,500 signatures from LIRR riders. Many are jumping aboard the controversial plan for the main line since it was first unveiled by Governor Andrew Cuomo exactly one year ago.
“Change is scary but at the end of this process everybody is going to be better off,” Dave Kapell of the Right Track for Long Island Coalition says.
The first of six public hearings was held in Westbury, Long Island Tuesday. Many complained about their torturous commutes.
MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast calls the fact that the LIRR has just two tracks a “magical feat on a daily basis.”
“With an additional track we have the means to mitigate when there is a delay and a track is out of service,” he added.
The $2 billion project would construct a ten mile track between Floral Park and Hicksville and would take three or four years to build.
The LIRR Commuter Council wants oversight on the timetable, cost, and scope of the project.
“It’s a large project,” says Mark Epstein from the council. “We are not only fare payers, we are taxpayers.”
Unlike past proposals, the third track would not seize any residential properties. It could, however, affect some commercial businesses with a plan to eliminate seven grade crossings.
Citizens against the rail expansion worry about parking, prolonged construction, and air quality.
“My major concern is the toxic soil along the railroad bed throughout the corridor,” one man said.
Still, many are in favor of the potential relief the project promises.
“Anything they can do to cut down on delays and make the commute easier for everyone,” one woman said.
The swift pace of the project is disconcerting to mayors of the affected villages. Seven of those mayors have asked the LIRR to extend public hearings to give them more time to digest the massive environmental review.
Project leaders say they hope to begin construction on the third track by the end of this year.
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