Third Track Suspended

Craig M. Johnson

July 11, 2008

Senator Craig M. Johnson commended the MTA/ LIRR for its financially prudent decision to suspend plans for the controversial Third Track Expansion Project amid a multi-million dollar budget shortfall for the agency.

"This is frankly the first smart decision that the MTA/LIRR has made regarding Third Track, and the first real evidence that they are listening to the concerns of Main Line residents and their representatives," Senator Johnson said. "However, this is only a partial victory. We all must continue to work together to make sure that this wrongheaded and increasingly costly project is defeated once and for all."

In media reports, MTA officials confirmed that it would be delaying the $1.5 billion Third Track Expansion, as well as $2.7 billion in other rail projects, as a result of a revenue shortfall.

Senator Johnson joins many Main Line residents in their concerns about the potentially devastating impact that this project, which would put a 10-mile stretch of track through dozens of neighborhoods between Hicksville and Floral Park, would have on its host communities. Adding to the concern is the MTA/ LIRR's continuously changing stated uses and justifications for the track.

It has also become apparent that the projected costs for Third Track have spiraled out of control. The project , which was slated to cost $1 billion when it was first announced, is now estimated to cost $1.5 billion.

Senator Johnson recommended that the Third Third project be denied in a June 16 letter to the head of a panel looking into ways to make the MTA more financially stable. The letter was subsequently released to the public.

"I am glad that they listened to reason," Senator Johnson said. "Third Track's costs keep rising, and its stated uses and justifications are continuously in flux. The only thing that remains constant is the opposition from the residents who are being asked to shoulder the burdens of this project."

Senator Johnson is also the sponsor of the Main Line Community Empowerment Act (S.7037), legislation that would only allow the project to move forward after it is approved by the governments of two-thirds of the communities that are being asked to host it.

Efforts to bring the bill to a vote on the Senate floor this year stalled after no member of the Senate Majority joined Senator Johnson in his petition to bring it out of the Senate Transportation Committee. He will be reintroducing the bill and will continue to fight for its passage.