Design work is expected to start in July for a second track on the Ronkonkoma line of the Long Island Rail Road.
State officials and the LIRR said environmental and other work will begin on the $138-million extension of the line between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma. The first phase, LIRR president Helena Williams said, would involve work between Ronkonkoma to Central Islip, with a target completion date of Septembe 2016.
Phase II involves the line from Central Islip to Farmingdale, with a 2018 completion date. Included in the second phase is a the rebuilding and reopening of the Republic LIRR station along Route 110.
Members of the state Senate who helped push through extra funds to get the project underway nearly two years earlier than originally scheduled, took turns at a press conference Thursday praising each others' efforts and the benefits of improved LIRR access on the line.
State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, R-Merrick, cited numerous benefits of the project. “The second track project brings tremendous benefits; jobs, economic development for Long Island, and improved service for LIRR riders. That’s why we fought so hard to make sure work starts now, not in 2015. Accelerating this project will allow that to happen and ensure that a project which has long been a dream finally becomes a reality,” Fuschillo, who is chairman of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, said. Fuschillo and others said the Long Island delegation had pressed for inclusion of the funds during budget negotiations.
"The impact of this important return on our investment will boost our region's strength, and specifically our economy. This will create jobs, improve our tax base, and make Long Island a better place to work and raise a family," State Sen. Lee Zeldin, R-Shirley, said.
LIRR president Helena Williams said the senators had recognized that the "LIRR is an economic engine for Long Island, getting residents to high skilled, high paying jobs. Double Track is a very important project both for the LIRR and for Long Island. It will provide real benefits for decades to come," she said.
Fuschillo's office said that the Main Line between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, covering 17.9 miles, has 5.3 miles of double track, including at most stations. Under the project, a second track will be added to the remaining 12.6 miles of single, electrified track along the Main Line.
Labor leaders on hand predicted that the project would create about 300 construction jobs but far more in related work.
Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors Association, said, "We'll have heavy construction, asphalt, steel and bridge work but there's a ripple effect," he said, that will create jobs in finance, bonding and other white-collar fields.
“Long Island has not seen a major infrastructure investment in its transportation system in generations. We need to make this investment to prevent Long Island from becoming an economic backwater and allow the region to move forward, generate jobs, and attract new investment. Double Track has strategic benefits for Long Island but the only way to receive them is to start work and get this project going," he said.
Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who with Fuschillo and Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone have worked on a Route 110 revitalization project, also spoke in praise of the plan.