WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A years-long effort to make the Long Island Rail Road safer reached a milestone Friday.

One by one, grade crossings are being replaced to save lives.

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There was celebration as a new underpass replaced a dangerous grade crossing on School Street in Westbury.

“We had to have it for the betterment of the community as a whole,” Westbury Deputy Mayor Steve Corte said.

A community that’s seen too much death in recent years.

Just 19 months ago, the School Street crossing was the scene of mangled metal and lost lives.

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Three men were killed after their car was struck by two LIRR trains.

The impact crushed the platform and injured passengers.

“They see the warning signs, they hear the train, they do it anyway,” Corte said.

A dangerous grade crossing on School Street in Westbury has been replaced by an underpass. (Credit: CBS2)

In its place now is the fifth of eight new LIRR underpasses. It’s part of the Third Track Improvement Project to reduce congestion and delays and increase railroad capacity.

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The other three are set to be eliminated by 2022, saving lives and time.

“Drivers are no longer to be forced to sit and wait for trains to pass. The gates are down in the peak hour for roughly a third of the time, so you can imagine the back-ups these grade crossings cause,” said Janno Lieber, president of MTA construction and development.

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It took six months to carve out the road under the tracks, but it has been decades in the making with six fatal crashes along the stretch in 10 years.

The project is on time and under budget during the pandemic.

“If you do it smart and you follow safety protocols, you can actually take advantage of the fact that there are fewer riders being disrupted,” New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said. “This will go down in history as something that was extraordinary.”

It costs roughly $100 million to replace a single grade crossing with an underpass.

Three hundred grade crossings, many of which are arguably as dangerous as School Street, remain with no plans or money to replace them.

The MTA’s budget woes are not expected to impact the completion of the grade crossing plan with money already allocated.


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