New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled more details about his administration's $5.6 billion plan to overhaul the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) system and ease rail congestion around the New York City metro area.
The project will include a $2 billion, 9.8-mile third track; a $387.2 million, 12.6-mile double track; a $128 million storage yard; a $375 million overhaul of the line's Jamaica Station, in Queens, plus renovations to 38 other stations; and upgrades to bridges and electric power substations.
The LIRR initiative encompasses 100 capital projects, some of which have been on the drawing board for 70 years.
The LIRR project is just one piece of a $100 billion state infrastructure initiative that Cuomo announced back in January 2016. At the time, officials said the projects included in the massive program would generate more than 250,000 jobs.
Also included in Cuomo's plan is a new, $12.9 billion Hudson River tunnel between New York and New Jersey; a renovation of New York City's Pennsylvania Station; the conversion of the nearby Farley Post Office Building into the Moynihan Train Hall; and construction of the East Side Access tunnel.
After work at Penn Station is complete, LIRR riders will be able to access trains there without having to go inside the station. Meanwhile, the East Side Access project will open up a first-time path to New York City's Grand Central Station for LIRR commuters.
Cuomo has said that the billions of dollars of improvements for his infrastructure program would be financed through a variety of local, state and federal sources as well as private money. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it had decided to loan the state $537.1 million for the Moynihan Train Hall project through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.
Lawmakers are considering expanding the TIFIA program because it allows state and local agencies to borrow money at lower interest rates than they could find through traditional financing. Congress heard testimony from previous loan recipients earlier this month. Although the feedback was generally positive, they cited excessive program costs and lack of outreach to rural communities as drawbacks.
A reliable stream of funding is critical if President Donald Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure program is expected to make it off the ground, especially considering its anticipated use of government funds to generate additional private financing.