The MTA finished its $2.5 billion Third Track project to add another set of rails along nearly 10 miles of the Long Island Rail Road, Governor Kathy Hochul announced Monday.
The nearly four-year scheme will free up congestion along the LIRR’s busy Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville on Long Island and cut delays and disruptions on the railroad, according to officials.
The added capacity also allows for more so-called reverse peak trips east from the city in the morning and west in the evening, once the MTA opens a new LIRR terminal below Grand Central on the East Side of Manhattan at the end of the year.
“Fewer delays, faster commutes and more frequent trips,” said Governor Hochul at a press conference with transit leaders in Nassau County’s Westbury on Oct. 3. “I think that just about gives us an A… not an F that’s an A.”
The construction project began in late 2018 under Hochul’s predecessor then-Governor Andrew Cuomo to add an extra track south of the current two tracks.
The project also included renovating five stations along the line, getting rid of eight grade crossings, upgrading seven railroad bridges, building out more car parking and installing sound barriers.
The new infrastructure allows the LIRR to keep running service if there’s a disruption on one of the tracks.
It also frees up a bottleneck area for the LIRR, where several of its branches converge, enabling the MTA subsidiary to run more trains from New York City out to Long Island during the morning rush into the city once the trains start running to Grand Central.
That will allow more Big Apple residents to commute to Long Island, according to MTA’s Chair and CEO Janno Lieber.
“There’s 53 additional reverse peak trains on the Main Line, that’s how you create economic growth,” said Lieber. “That’s huge for the Long Island economy, because now you really can draw on the full talent pool of the entire region,” the transit chief said.
The project came in $100 million below the original $2.6 billion budget, which Lieber attributed in part to combining the design and construction work under one contract, also known as design-build.
“This project is being delivered on time and $100 million under budget, thanks to design-build contracting and many other new and innovative project management strategies,” he said in a statement.
The new terminal facility below Grand Central in East Midtown, dubbed Grand Central Madison by Hochul, promises to boost weekday LIRR service by 41% adding 274 trains to a total of 939 daily Monday through Friday, according to the MTA.
While rush service to Manhattan will grow between 58-62%, the proposed draft schedules also cut most one-seat rides from Long Island to Brooklyn, meaning commuters bound for Atlantic Terminal will have to transfer at Jamaica, walking up and over to Platform F of the Queens station for their shuttle train.