Written by Cory Twibell: firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 31 May 2012 00:00
The MTA Long Island Rail Road announced on Monday, May 21, that $211.5 million worth of capital improvements – dubbed the MTA Capital Plan – will result in major renovations at the Hicksville train station, a new bridge on Ellison Avenue in the Village of Westbury and drainage improvements in Mineola.
The plan comes at a time when civic groups in Hicksville are revitalizing the downtown area; the Westbury Performing Arts Center is slated to open in the fall and nearby Ellison Avenue links two major thoroughfares (Old Country Road and Jericho Turnpike); and the Village of Mineola is battling ongoing drainage issues at its own high-volume station.
MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said, “In the short term, construction means jobs, something that the MTA has provided continually over many years. Long term, these projects link to East Side Access, America’s biggest public works project and one that promises to shave commuting time and make Long Island more attractive for living and doing business.”
Of the $106.6 million devoted to the Hicksville train station, one of the LIRR’s busiest, $55.1 million will go toward what the MTA describes as a “facelift,” which includes new station platforms, waiting rooms, canopies, stairways, lighting, elevators, escalators and a digital audio communication system.
The LIRR set aside $37.7 million for an additional 3,000 feet of new track, along with power and signal work, which will enable the LIRR to add three morning and evening peak service trains between Hicksville and Grand Central Terminal once the East Side Access project is completed. The additional track will improve the railroad’s ability to reroute trains due to maintenance, construction or service disruptions, according to an MTA press release.
Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams said, “These projects will improve our service reliability in a critical stretch of the LIRR. The signal and siding improvements at Hicksville will benefit thousands of customers who pass through this junction each day while the station improvements will make for a brighter commute for our Hicksville customers and we welcome community input as we go forward.”
The LIRR will also spend $13.8 million to modernize the signal system at the Divide Tower located just east of the Hicksville station, which controls all train movement on the Huntington/Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma branches east of Hicksville.
“I’m pleased to see that there are both aesthetic and service improvements slated for the Hicksville LIRR station. It makes sense to improve both the appearance and the operation of the station since so many residents use it. I’m glad the railroad has made Hicksville a priority,” New York State Senator Jack Martins said.
An ongoing issue for residents and village officials for many years, the Ellison Avenue Bridge in Westbury will be demolished and rebuilt as part of the MTA’s Capital Plan.
The bridge, built in 1941, will be environmentally reviewed this year with contracts tentatively to be awarded in 2013 and completion set for the end 2014.
Westbury Village Mayor Peter Cavallaro said that the village has fought to have the bridge replaced for nearly two decades, but Cavallaro expressed his relief now that a plan is finally in place.
“The replacement of the bridge will cause some inconvenience to our residents during the construction phase, but we are already working on, and have developed, a preliminary road closure plan. We will be sharing more details with [residents] as the project nears.
“In the meantime, we are very grateful to Senator Jack Martins and LIRR President Helena Williams for finally addressing this very pressing need of our community,” Cavallaro said.
The mayor also thanked former Village Mayor Ernie Strada and Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., chairman of the transportation committee and a Westbury native, who teamed with Senator Martins over the years on the bridge project.
“The reconstruction of the Ellison Avenue Bridge has been a long time coming. Because of the efforts of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro advocating for his community and the commitment of LIRR President Helena Williams, there is finally funding being directed toward this important project. The Village of Westbury deserves to have this bridge rebuilt and we will hold the railroad to its commitment,” Senator Martins said.
The project will include an improved drainage system along the north side of the Mineola Station to correct a problem has historically been plagued by flooding. The LIRR is working with the Village of Mineola on potential track and station improvements that will improve pedestrian flow.
According to The Mineola American, the project includes a new underground drainage system, regraded and resurfaced parking lot, new lighting and walkways. Village staffers revealed the project was funded in large part through the $524,000 community block development grant Mineola applied for last month. The project is expected to last two months. The finished product will function as two new commuter parking lots, new curbs and catch basins to service water into new water wells.
LIRR’s Williams called the drainage work and bridge replacement “key projects that will benefit the Main Line and the local communities.”