Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR Expansion Project is closing the Main Street railroad crossing in Mineola, the eighth of eight railroad crossings to be permanently eliminated on time and on budget as part of the project. The crossings had created nuisances to nearby residents with the sounding of train horns and crossing bells, and to motorists who had to experience traffic backups with the closure of crossing gates. Additionally, the crossings posed safety risks to motorists, pedestrians and train occupants with all eight crossings in the busiest segment of the LIRR for both train and vehicular traffic.
The timely elimination of the crossings is just one significant early benefit of the transformative expansion project, which also includes the renewal of stations, raising of bridges and upgrading of switches and infrastructure before crews add a third track to the LIRR Main Line to reduce congestion, expand the railroad’s capacity by up to 50 percent in concert with service to Grand Central Terminal, and promote reverse-commuting to Long Island from New York City.
“New York’s economic growth depends on a modern and reliable transportation network to support the safe flow of people and goods across our state,” Governor Cuomo said. “We continue to lead the nation in strengthening our transportation infrastructure and this is the perfect example of those efforts. This marks a total of eight grade crossings removed on time and on budget since 2019 and is emblematic of our commitment to enhancing public safety, while also improving the quality of life for Long Islanders by reducing noise, air and traffic pollution.”
President of MTA Construction & Development Janno Lieber said, “Almost 40 years ago, after a terrible accident that killed nine people, authorities promised to eliminate the dangerous grade crossings on the LIRR Main Line. It took years to finish just two of the 10 between Floral Park and Hicksville. But under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, in the past two years the Third Track project team has eliminated all eight remaining grade crossings. This project will save Long Islanders a huge amount of time and inconvenience, but – more important – it is actually saving lives.”
President of the Long Island Rail Road Phil Eng said, “The entire railroad is extraordinarily appreciative of this work. Each crossing elimination represents one fewer potential point of interaction with roadway traffic. It means enhanced safety and it also means enhanced reliability for our customers. This is all the more true on the busy main line, where train traffic is the most frequent.”
Until the LIRR Main Line Expansion project, progress on grade crossing eliminations had been measured in decades. On Feb. 26, 2019, three occupants of an automobile lost their lives after driving around a downed crossing gate at the recently eliminated railroad crossing at School Street in Westbury/New Cassel. Another deadly incident had taken place along the corridor on March 14, 1982, when nine teenagers were killed when their van collided with a train at the LIRR Main Line’s Herricks Road crossing in Mineola. That crossing and the nearby Roslyn Road crossing were eliminated over the years, but eight others on the stretch remained in place for decades before the LIRR Expansion Project began a little over two years ago. Work on eliminating the remaining crossings has been swift, with complex projects being completed just six months apiece, including the following:
- In New Cassel, the Urban Avenue railroad crossing closed on March 8, 2019, and reopened as an underpass on Sept. 6, 2019 (a duration of just five months and 29 days).
- In New Hyde Park three crossings have been eliminated. The Covert Avenue crossing closed on April 15, 2019, and reopened as an underpass on Oct. 12, 2019 (a duration of just five months and 27 days). The New Hyde Park Road railroad crossing closed on Feb. 3, 2020, and reopened on August 24, 2020 (a duration of just six months and 21 days). The S. 12th Street railroad crossing closed on Oct. 24, 2020, and is being rebuilt as an underpass for pedestrians scheduled to open in the summer.
- In Westbury, the School Street crossing closed on May 18, 2020, and reopened as an underpass on Nov. 13, 2020 (a duration of just five months and 26 days).
- In Mineola, two adjacent crossings at Willis Avenue closed on Nov. 30, 2020. They are being rebuilt as an underpass scheduled to open in the fall. One of those crossings is on the Main Line and one is on the Oyster Bay Branch. The Main Street railroad crossing that is closing today is being rebuilt as a pedestrian overpass with elevators scheduled to open in the spring.
MTA Construction & Development’s LIRR Expansion Project is part of a multibillion-dollar modernization of the Long Island Rail Road, the largest investment the railroad has received in decades. Once the work is complete, the LIRR will have increased its capacity up to 50 percent. Together, the upgrades will help transform transportation across the region and provide a reliable, state-of-the-art rail system for Long Islanders. For more information on the 100+ projects set to transform the LIRR, visit aModernLI.com.