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Apr 16, 2019 2:55 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Looks To Designate Funds For Expansion Of The LIRR Montauk Branch

State officials are working to get additional money to expand the Montauk Branch of the Long Island Railroad, to allow trains to pass on the single-track line. GREG WEHNER
Apr 16, 2019 3:32 PM

A proposal to expand and improve the single-track Montauk Branch of the Long Island Rail Road by installing infrastructure allowing trains to pass one another is gaining traction in Albany, and is expected to receive funding.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said on Tuesday that the 2019-20 state budget is expected to include dedicated funding that could be used for the planning process of expanding the Montauk Branch, although the amount of money was not disclosed.

The expansion would include adding interlocked sidings along with sections of double track that will allow trains to pass.

“That would be great,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said on Tuesday after hearing the news. “That really is our technical roadblock. Maybe it’s not a roadblock but a train block.”

He said he believes the LIRR is looking at identifying three places to create a parallel track where one train could pull off to allow another to go by. “It would be as if we had a second set of tracks,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

Only one train at a time can be on the track between Speonk and Montauk, going in either direction, under the current configuration. So if there is an eastbound train heading to Montauk from Hampton Bays, there could not be a westbound train heading in the opposite direction to Hampton Bays. That severely limits scheduling.

The LIRR, in partnership with the towns of East Hampton and Southampton, kicked off the South Fork Commuter Connection in March. For $3.25 each way, riders have the ability to ride one of eight new trains to get to and from the station closest to their place of work. For $1 more, the commuters can take a shuttle, provided by either the Hampton Jitney or Hampton Hopper, to get even closer to their workplace.

Although service started out slow, nearly 130 riders per week are taking advantage of the service.

The proposed track expansion would allow the LIRR to add additional trains to the Commuter Connection.

“Ridership numbers on the South Fork Commuter Connection increased dramatically during its first month of service, and these infrastructure improvements will only build on that success and further alleviate traffic congestion on the East End, particularly during peak commuting hours,” Mr. Thiele said in a press release.

MTA President Patrick Foye told the Assembly in a letter that the improvements to the Montauk Branch were identified in the LIRR’s 20-year needs assessment, according to the press release, and noted that the money would be used to begin designing the rail-siding plan.

Calls to Mr. Thiele seeking information about any additional hurdles the funding could run into were not immediately returned.

“I am pleased with the continued efforts of the MTA and LIRR to increase and improve train services to the East End,” the assemblyman said in the release. “I look forward to our continued cooperation in making these necessary improvements to reduce traffic congestion and make it easier for businesses to recruit and retain employees by providing an alternative, faster and less stressful commute to the South Fork.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he completely supports Mr. Thiele’s efforts.

Since the commuter service started, he said he has heard criticism regarding the scheduling of trains. If trains had the ability to pass, he said, the schedule could be more flexible.

The estimated time frame of when the sidings and additional track would be installed has not been released, nor has the cost.

“It’s costly,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I’m sure creating those sidings will be millions and millions of dollars. But I think it would give us the infrastructure we need to meet the current demand, and the flexibility.”

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Hope they think outside the box for a change and look at other ways of fixing the transportation nightmare of the twin forks.

Perhaps ripping out the tracks and putting in a real road might make better sense both economically and environmentally in the long term.

Traffic congestion is the number one problem.

A better bus system would probably help as well.
By Amagansett Voter (57), Amagansett on Apr 17, 19 7:50 AM
Trains do pass right now at the Southampton station at 3:31pm. Happens everyday
By duuude76 (1), Hampton Bays on Apr 17, 19 7:54 AM
“Ridership numbers on the South Fork Commuter Connection increased dramatically during its first month of service"...yes it increased from 10 to 11 - a 10 percent increase. I think it was Mark Twain that said "figures don't lie, but Liars figure.
By G.A.Lombardi (443), Hampton Bays on Apr 17, 19 8:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
The implementation of the commuter train was yet another example of the institutional process corruption on the east end. Throw the spaghetti against the ceiling and see if it will stick. There is a problem with traffic on the east end and, without any real analyses, they move forward with this incredibly expensive project. It is like going to a doctor with a pain in your foot and coming out with a brace for your arm.
By G.A.Lombardi (443), Hampton Bays on Apr 17, 19 8:35 AM
And your educated solution is...what?
By East End 2 (145), Southampton on Apr 17, 19 9:26 AM
I couldn't possibly formulate a solution with out detailed analyses and input from subject matter experts. That is what I expect from our chief operating office of the Town of Southampton. Instead, decisions are made and tax dollars are spent on a whim.
By G.A.Lombardi (443), Hampton Bays on Apr 17, 19 9:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
?
By East End 2 (145), Southampton on Apr 17, 19 10:28 AM
? - what don't you understand? The way that chief operating officers (the Town Supervisor) should spend money and make decisions should be based on all the facts and circumstances, applicable law, and input from constituents. This became a "photo op" turned bad and now they are trying to build a false narrative. This is just a bigger version of the "Trolley Folly" that drive around HB aimlessly for an entire summer. I believe they averaged 2 people a day and that included the driver.
By G.A.Lombardi (443), Hampton Bays on Apr 17, 19 11:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
Soon work on the Great Peconic Causeway,the most beautiful drive in America,will begin. All these concerns will become insignificant.
By V.Tomanoku (744), southampton on Apr 17, 19 10:36 AM
"Although service started out slow, nearly 130 riders per week are taking advantage of the service." How many are Town employees or teachers? It astonishes me that restaurant owners can be told not to provide customer friendly implements for coffee stirring but the Town can't tell it's employees to take this train.

The fact is that so long as the train union controls the LIRR the politicians will figure out how to keep it running. Time to make self driving electric cars with zero union ...more
By dfree (743), hampton bays on Apr 17, 19 2:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
130 riders divided by a 5 day work week divided by east and west translates into 13 THIRTEEN people...
By G.A.Lombardi (443), Hampton Bays on Apr 17, 19 2:44 PM
you nailed it
By eastender09 (29), southampton on Apr 17, 19 3:16 PM
Proud that another of the issues I raised in last years race for Assembly District #1 is getting attention. My question: did Fred suddenly find religion on the need to improve transportation through the Hamptons? Or is this yet another example less than transparent workings of Make-A-Deal Thiele surfacing now that there is a photo op associated with the need to fix this problem. Looking forward to 2020.
By Southampton Patrick (13), Southampton on Apr 17, 19 7:54 PM
The LIRR to both forks has next to useless service unless they can figure out how to run actual useful train service this is a exercise in futility. Both forks have been languishing for years . 3 hours between SH and Penn that have 2 am arrivals or 3 pm arrivals is a waste of resources
By lo-cal (74), southampton on Apr 17, 19 10:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
What a waste of money! I live in Southampton, and I often travel to the city. I'd love to take the LIRR from Southampton, but I can't because there is virtually no usable parking anywhere near the train station.

Fix this first, and then worry about train tracks and schedules.
By rpd (5), Southampton on Apr 18, 19 3:36 PM
Take the light out at the college and the traffic will move on CR39. Take out the tracks from Southampton too Montauk and put a highway and problem solved.
By chief1 (2722), southampton on Apr 19, 19 1:17 AM
OK Chief, if a HIGHWAY or even a 2 lane road were to be built where the tracks are today, what happens where the tracks are on overpasses? How about in Watermill where the tracks are on a narrow raised piece of land going along Mill Pond and through wetlands , how about the wetlands in Montauk?
By bigfresh (4375), north sea on Apr 19, 19 6:21 AM
Additionally Chief, the light at the college allows RESIDENTS to both access and exit 39. The traffic situation is what it is, if one chooses to live UTI and commute to work on the east end then that's what it takes. I feel for folks in HB who work to the east but the powers that be have allowed over building to occur and this is the result.
By bigfresh (4375), north sea on Apr 19, 19 7:20 AM
Everyone is a transportation expert!
The morning commuter trains with 130 passengers isn't the only train that runs on the branch. Come out on a Thursday evening when the 12 car two engine monster packed with standing room only express from Penn Station pulls into the first stop at Westhampton. The train service needs to be expanded, not eliminated. They are on the right track, no pun intended, with this project of more interlocked passing. This is the Achilles heel of the new signal system ...more
By deelove (149), Bridgehampton on Apr 20, 19 7:43 AM
The current train service carries thousands, and I do mean thousands, of people to the south fork every week. The weekly cannonball train out of Penn alone has a thousand passengers. 137 passengers each car times 12. You do the math and figure out how many automobiles or busses that took off county road 39.
The train service needs to expand and be improved. The county and towns are doing the right thing by pushing for more service and improved infrastructure.
A paved road instead of tracks???? ...more
By deelove (149), Bridgehampton on Apr 20, 19 8:03 AM
Take the tracks out and people can be bussed out or drive.Of course thousand can go on a four lane highway quicker than the train can. The traffic and light situation isn't going to work. This isnt Europe or the City people come out here to drive and relax not take the train. We have thousands of service trucks it wo t work
By chief1 (2722), southampton on Apr 20, 19 10:05 AM
again Chief, how to address the single track overpasses , wetlands and bodies of water that the current LIRR runs on?
By bigfresh (4375), north sea on Apr 20, 19 10:36 AM
Same old "just do this" simplistic suggestions about a wider road or LIRR right-of-way.

As has been pointed out in previous comments for dozens of articles, even if the political will could be mustered to approve such a move [very doubtful IMO] . . .

. . . the time and expenses required -- to fight with the various landowners in an eminent domain proceeding -- would be . . .

MONUMENTAL !!!

We are talking 5-10 years, and probably billions of dollars for land ...more
By PBR (4919), Southampton on Apr 20, 19 10:46 AM
Tesla expects to launch the first robotaxis as part of broader vision for an autonomous ride-sharing network in 2020, CEO Elon Musk said during the company’s Autonomy Day.

“I feel very confident predicting that there will be autonomous robotaxis from Tesla next year — not in all jurisdictions because we won’t have regulatory approval everywhere”
By dfree (743), hampton bays on Apr 22, 19 7:58 PM
So just do nothing. Eminent domain is very easy and permitting is by the state. You can not fit more cars on the road so you need more road. People will not take mass transportation this is the Hamptons!
By chief1 (2722), southampton on Apr 23, 19 10:59 PM
LIRR pension planning:."The transit worker who hauled in $344,147 in overtime pay last year will likely score a cushy pension of $162,000 a year — $93,000 of which came from loading up his time sheet over the past three years.

The Post revealed this week that recently retired chief measurement operator Thomas Caputo took in the jaw-dropping overtime sum as part of a staggering $461,646 pay total in 2018. "
By dfree (743), hampton bays on Apr 25, 19 2:40 PM