The federal government is proposing a monumental expansion of the Northeast Corridor passenger rail line (NEC) through the heart of Long Island. The plan can be found within the Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the NEC Future: A Rail Investment Plan for the Northeast Corridor.
The proposal suggests an all-new high speed rail network that stretches from Floral Park, cuts through the heart of Garden City in a parallel trench along Stewart Avenue, through Eisenhower Park straight into Levittown. From there – the new rail spur is proposed to rejoin the LIRR Main Line in Farmingdale, continuing east into Suffolk County, running adjacent through Wyandanch, Brentwood and Ronkonkoma.
Then, the rail line shifts northward near Long Island MacArthur Airport, tunneling underneath the LIE and continuing straight to Stony Brook on either an embankment or aerial structure. From there, the rail goes into either a tunnel or trench near the Village of Port Jefferson, and for 22 miles, the new rail link tunnels its way across the Long Island Sound where it will emerge in New Haven Connecticut. Trains along the route are proposed to near speeds of 160 MPH.
The NEC stretches from Washington D.C. to New England, and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is currently preparing a comprehensive plan for the corridor that will improve service and resiliency of the corridor. The planning effort began in 2012, and the end goal is the creation of an investment program that will guide passenger rail improvement projects within the NEC through 2040.
Other alternatives are being suggested by the FRA include the option to improve and maintain the current NEC so that it is in a state-of-good repair, an option that creates new NEC rail linkages in Connecticut, and lastly, the most ambitious – to create a new NEC “spine” that either cuts through Westchester County and eventually through Connecticut, or through the heart of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. According to the DEIS’ Evaluation of Alternatives, “roughly 75 trains a day would connect Ronkonkoma and Boston South Station, specifically in Alternative 3 route options between Long Island and Providence, and Long Island and Worcester.”
This option, as reported by the Washington Post’s Ashley Halsey, are “two more ambitious and expensive plans” that “would address the biggest bottleneck in the Northeast Corridor, at the Hudson River – all at an eventual estimated cost of $290 billion. A staggering figure, but since the plan looks to be incrementally built over decades, not insurmountable.
Significant questions regarding the proposal remain – Why is one public hearing occurring in Mineola, New York City, and other impacted areas but not Suffolk County, where significant investment is planned to take place? With the FRA’s plan, what will happen with the third track project the MTA wants between Floral Park and Mineola? If Alternative 3 is selected, will the federal government utilize eminent domain to secure clearance on the new railways right-of-way? Lastly – are local policymakers within Suffolk County, and the Towns of Babylon, Islip and Brookhaven aware that the federal government is looking to tie together Long Island’s regional projects with a large high-speed rail network?
These are critically important questions – and the Foggiest Idea will be exploring the proposal with in-depth policy analysis for The Long Island Press in 2016.
For all inquiries regarding NEC Future, please contact Rich@TheFoggiestIdea.org. Additional images from the DEIS can be found below, including a larger map.
Rich Murdocco writes about Long Island’s land use and real estate development issues. He received his Master’s in Public Policy at Stony Brook University, where he studied regional planning under Dr. Lee Koppelman, Long Island’s veteran master planner. Murdocco is a regular contributor to the Long Island Press. More of his views can be found on www.TheFoggiestIdea.org or follow him on Twitter @TheFoggiestIdea.