The recent grade crossing accident at Westbury once again makes the case for electrification of the seven-mile Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Central Branch, running east of Hicksville on the Ronkokoma line on to Babylon. This would provide another alternative for thousands of riders from the Ronkonkoma, Huntington and Port Jefferson branches when there are disruptions on the Main Line west of Hicksville. Trains could travel a different route via the Central Branch, which starts east of Hicksville to Babylon and on to Jamaica and Penn Station. Electrification of the Central Branch could also afford creation of a new north/south scoot service, running from Huntington by Hicksville and to Babylon.
Electrification of the Port Jefferson branch beyond Huntington has been proposed on and off for more than 50 years and more. In the ’80s, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and LIRR management decided to go forward with electrification of the Ronkokoma rather than on the Port Jefferson branch. Completion of the proposed $12 million Port Jefferson branch feasibility study by the end of 2019 would be a great first step. LIRR President Eng, MTA senior management, MTA board members and many others may not be aware of past history on this concept.
Besides electrification of the Central and Port Jefferson branch from Huntington to Port Jefferson ($360 million), there is the need to do the same for the Montauk line from Babylon to Speonk ($360 million), on the Ronkonkoma line from Ronkonkoma to Yaphank ($120 million) and Oyster Bay to Mineola ($120 million). All five combined could easily cost more than $1 billion. They would provide the LIRR with more operational flexibility.
Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA and LIRR
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