At long last the Metropolitan Transit Authority will replace the 115-year-old Colonial Road Bridge in Thomaston and extend a pocket track east of the Long Island Rail Road’s Great Neck Station. The total estimated cost for the entire project is $45.1 million, according to the MTA. This three-year project addresses the inherent safety fears surrounding the old bridge and finally permits the pocket track, which is a key component of the LIRR’s East Side Access Readiness Plan.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2017 with the pocket track to cost an estimated $25.2 million and the new bridge $19.9 million for a total estimated cost of $45.1 million. The balance of the budget represents the cost of work that will be done by LIRR employees in the construction of the pocket track including utility relocation and power, signal, and switch installation.
“These infrastructure improvements will enable the LIRR to provide safe and reliable service on the Port Washington Branch for many years to come and give us the operational flexibility to provide better train service, especially when the East Side Access project is complete,” said LIRR President Patrick A. Nowakowski.
The new pocket track will extend an existing storage track to accommodate an additional 12-car train. Once complete, it will enable the LIRR to increase the number of trains it can turn at Great Neck, provide better rush hour service as well as seat availability from Great Neck and stations west of Great Neck.
The Colonial Road Bridge, built in 1897, crosses over the LIRR track a half-mile east of Great Neck Station in the Village of Thomaston. Maintenance of the bridge is the sole responsibility of the LIRR, whose engineering staff determined the structure is at the end of its useful life.
According to MTA officials, the new bridge will meet New York State Department of Transportation standards, which means wider travel vehicular travel lanes and improved pedestrian sidewalk. The project will also involve the construction of a new drainage system at track level that will eliminate a flooding problem that often hampers train service and include a retaining wall and landscaping which together will act as a sound barrier between the LIRR Right of Way and the local neighborhood.
East Side Access is scheduled for completion in 2022 and will enable Long Islander railroad riders to ride the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal and the East Side of Manhattan for the first time, saving customers who work on the East Side as much as 20 minutes commuting time in each direction. The Great Neck Pocket Track and new Colonial Road Bridge is part of the East Side Access Readiness Plan, one of five major infrastructure improvements the LIRR is planning in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk in support of future train service at Grand Central.
Former Thomaston Mayor Robert Stern, who recently retired, had worked long and hard over many years, fighting for his residents. Over the years Stern met regularly with MTA and LIRR officials, and, as well, worked with local public officials to ensure that Thomaston residents were protected from noise, pollution and possible encroachment on their property both during and after track work.
Current Thomaston Mayor Steve Weinberg was set to also meet with railroad officials, to discuss the new plans. He expected MTA and LIRR officials to discuss all planned work and to further advise him of all scheduled work and to discuss all safeguards that would protect his residents. And he expressed much appreciation for the support offered by New York State Senator Jack Martins.
At this point, Weinberg did tell the Great Neck Record that the LIRR has promised residents a noise barrier and that no trains will be permitted to idle; they will only be permitted to park for specified periods of time.