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Gov. Cuomo Announces Plan For LIRR Expansion, Possible Long Island Sound Tunnel

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo has some big mass transit plans for Long Island, including a new Long Island Rail Road track and a tunnel through the Long Island Sound.

On Tuesday, the governor proposed a shakeup to get the economy rolling.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, the long delayed and controversial addition of a third track to the LIRR's main line got a shot in the arm from the top.

"They have the worst commutes in the country on Long Island. The average commuter spends nearly three work weeks sitting in traffic every year," he said.

As WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported, Cuomo said adding a third LIRR track from Floral Park to Hicksville is needed and necessary.

"If we're going to grow in downstate New York, we're going to have to improve our mass transit system, because you cannot handle the traffic we now have," he said.

Currently during peak hours, the LIRR can only run trains in one direction due to track capacity, leaving many who have a reverse commute with little options in the way of mass transit.

The governor outlined a sweeping plan to boost the local economy before a sold out Long Island Association business group meeting.

Cuomo said the additional track will increase service, reduce congestion and allow the LIRR to provide reverse-peak trains during traditional business hours.

The governor's $1.5 billion plan won applause from a packed luncheon hosted by the Long Island Association.

MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast echoed the group's sentiments, saying the third track will have a huge economic impact for the island.

"The addition of this track capacity is going to provide benefits for the region that they haven't seen before," he said.

Earlier third track plans, shelved a decade ago, displaced 200 homes. This time, 20 houses within a mile of Mineola would lose five feet of backyard land and homeowners would be compensated. Thirty businesses would have the option of paid relocation.

"I think there will be some opposition, but I think it is the future for Long Island," Mark Epstein, LIRR Commuter Council said.

Cuomo also announced a multi-million dollar commitment to the feasibility of building a tunnel under the Long Island Sound connecting to either Connecticut or the Bronx.

As CBS2's McLogan reported, the governor also wants a federal customs inspection facility at Long Island MacArthur Airport, allowing it to have international travel, and to spend $6-million on a feasibility study.

Is a bridge from Bayville to Westchester pie in the sky? How about an automobile tunnel from port Jefferson to Connecticut?

"We need to explore the idea of how we connect to the mainland in the United States from Long Island, and a tunnel is the right way to do it," Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone said.

According to the Rach Foundation's Long Island Index, all of this could have major implications for business.

"This would be a tremendous proposal for job creation on Long Island. What it does is increase the commerce for our region," Marc Herbst, Long Island Contractors Association said.

Soon, door knocking, phone calls, and letters will inform home and business owners that their land may abutt a new third track. Noise mitigation will be offered, and safety improvement to grade crossings.

The governor will present the proposals, and others including deepwater ports and sewer expansion during his budget address to lawmakers on January 13. The spending plan would likely top $140-billion.

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