NEWSDAY: 'The biggest political roadblock to the third track is state Sen. Craig Johnson ...'

Craig M. Johnson

April 01, 2010

NEWSDAY HEADLINE: Experts: Dim future for big LI transportation projects


With Long Island's dour economy, shrinking state revenues and strong "not-in-my-backyard" tendency, the prospect of new large-scale, government-funded transportation projects being launched anytime soon in the region appears bleak, experts said Sunday.

Reacting to Newsday's special section Sunday focusing on Long Island's transportation woes, experts said smaller, less costly solutions funded locally are more likely in the near-term. "That's why a group like ours and some other planning groups are pointing to small-scale, transit-oriented developments and not the big-budget items," said Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island.

He said it's hard to justify pushing for funds for big new mass-transit projects when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is cutting rail and bus lines it operates now.

Maureen Michaels, chairwoman of the LIRR Commuter's Council, said the Long Island Rail Road third track project to accommodate reverse commuters and others riding between Floral Park andHicksville is necessary for the railroad's future. But she blamed political gridlock, inertia and the economy for its stagnation. "It'll never get approved in an election year, but it's got to happen," she said. "But given the history of the railroad, not much has changed in 175 years."

The biggest political roadblock to the third track is state Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington), who has a seat on the MTA Capital Program Review Board and is a staunch opponent.

"We're not going to see any megaprojects in the foreseeable future," Johnson said. "The best thing is to try and ensure that we are reducing the spending that occurs with regard to any megaproject. Now is not the time to be contemplating the big projects."

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