Progress Made on Effort to Expand Rail Service

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If all goes according to plan, the East End could see a bit more service from the Long Island Rail Road in the coming years.

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said this week he was “very confident” the LIRR would approve the suggestions for beefed up services made by East End elected representatives at a meeting with railroad officials last week.

Officials have asked the LIRR to restore the South Fork Commuter Connection, which ran on a short-term basis from 2006 to 2007 while County Road 39 was being widened. At that time, two eastbound commuter trains between Speonk and Montauk were added each morning, and in the afternoon an extra westbound train and bus were added, while local municipalities provided shuttle bus service to employment centers.

Under the new proposal for a full-time Commuter Connection, the afternoon westbound bus would be replaced with a train. Modifications to the schedule would also have to be made to accommodate summertime rail service.

Officials have also requested that the LIRR, as part of its long term capital plan, consider providing local service eastbound every half hour during the morning commute and westbound during the afternoon commute. But before that could be done, it would be necessary to add a second track from Sayville to Montauk or at least add sidings at South Fork stations. As part of the deal, state legislators would try to obtain funding to pay for a feasibility study.

Mr. Thiele said the railroad is already undertaking a long-term capital plan for its entire system. “The East End is a big part of that because it is the area with the most projected growth in ridership,” said Mr. Thiele. Although he added that it would likely take at least five years before construction would begin, Mr. Thiele said he thought the initiative had a good chance of moving forward.

The requests are more simple for the North Fork, where a fourth weekday departure and third weekend train from Greenport are sought. In addition, North Fork representatives have requested that an early morning train that currently runs from Ronkonkoma to Greenport to move equipment into position for the morning commute be allowed to take on passengers seasonally as a special train for fishermen.

Mr. Thiele said he hoped the expanded service could begin as early as this year for the North Fork and by early 2018 for the South Fork because schedules need to be worked out, local municipalities need to set up transit service to shuttle riders, and marketing plan will need to be put in place to alert riders to the improved service.

Officials met with LIRR representatives last summer to begin exploring the possibility of increased service. Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming and representatives from the East End towns and villages also attended.

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