USA: A consortium of AECOM and Gannett Fleming has been awarded a $7m contract to undertake environmental assessments and community engagement as preparatory work begins to construct a third track over the 15·8 route-km Floral Park – Hicksville section of the Long Island Rail Road commuter rail network.

The northerly LIRR main line across Long Island has been highly capacity-constrained for several years, with limited scope for service recovery from any disruption. According to LIRR’s parent authority New York MTA, the current double-track alignment also limits opportunities for intra-island travel, and additional capacity will be needed once LIRR commuter trains begin running to Grand Central Terminal in New York City from 2019 under the East Side Access project.

Around 40% of LIRR passengers use the Floral Park – Hicksville section on trains linking New York City with Port Jefferson, Oyster Bay and Greenport. The current triple-tracking plan replaces a previous proposal that would have required LIRR to purchase some or all of 80 properties along a longer section of route. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said the revised proposals ‘would not require any acquisition of residential properties’.

The preliminary works contract covers development of initial conceptual engineering designs within the existing alignment where a third track will be built. The scope of work can be extended to cover preparation of design-build contracts and additional support during the delivery phase.

LIRR says it will work with the Gannett Fleming/AECOM consortium and local community groups to determine ‘the best outcome’ for grade separating or removing seven level crossings between Floral Park and Hicksville.

‘This is an important step forward in this project, which is so critical to the future of Long Island residents and the region’s economy’, Cuomo added. ‘This project will not only improve commutes but also reduce traffic congestion and strengthen the environment by getting more Long Islanders out of their cars.’