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First section of Long Island Rail Road third track expansion opens

First section of Long Island Rail Road third track expansion opens
First section of Long Island Rail Road third track expansion opens 02:30

NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. -- It took decades of debate and four years of construction, but finally on Monday Long Island Rail Road trains began using a brand new third track on the main line through Nassau County.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the mega project is expected to dramatically improve capacity and reliability system-wide.

All aboard. It's a new era in LIRR commuting. Three tracks are now operating side by side on the main line, adding capacity by easing a bottleneck.

"Six hundred trains, over 900 trains. That's unbelievable, to go that higher level of capacity. What that means is more people have access to a quicker ride, more frequency and less hassle," Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

The plan is on its maiden voyage, but the $2.6 billion project, shelved for decades amid community opposition, was re-envisioned by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to update the nation's busiest commuter railroad without taking down adjacent homes.

The main line had just two tracks since the 1840s.

"This is a transformative project for Long Island. Mothers and fathers will be able to come home and see their children quicker because of that, increasing the value across Long Island," said Kyler Strober, executive director of the Association for Better Long Island.

"The reverse commuting, which is the key to Long Island's ability to attract workers, is going to become real for the first time with 53 more reverse trains on the main line, alone," MTA CEO Janno Lieber said.

The first section, from Queens Village to Merillon Ave/Garden City, is now running. Additional segments will launch in the coming weeks, equipped with new platforms, shelters, WiFi covering a 10-mile stretch with a ripple effect.

"Any time of delay, it gummed up the whole system, and those delays, a lot of them are true to the fact that you had those low bridges which were frequently getting struck. We eliminated those," Lieber said.

Some have paid a higher price for progress. Neighbors endured noise and giant power poles erected along the route.

"The construction has been a nightmare for us. You can look at this area and that's what we have every day for three years," Garden City resident Haiyan Sui said.

The LIRR Commuter Council's Gerard Bringmann calls it a positive game changer.

"Delays are always problematic. Now we have an additional track, so now, God forbid a train goes down, they can route trains around it," Bringmann said.

Ironically, expanded capacity comes as the railroad is still only at 60 percent of pre-COVID levels. The governor said this new riding experience will drive people back.

The MTA said the project came in $100 million under budget and ahead of schedule. It should be complete by next April.

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