2013-09-06 / Letters

Rock Branch Reality

Dear Editor:

It may be a long time before restoration of Long Island Rail Road service on the old LIRR Rockaway Beach branch line could become a reality. "Call To Reactivate Rockaway Beach Line" (Miriam Rosenberg -- August 30). Restoration of service along this corridor, also known as the White Pot Junction Line that was abandoned in the 1950's has been periodically discussed over time. This route started off as a spur from the LIRR mainline east of Woodside at Rego Park running to Ozone Park connecting to the "A" line subway near Aqueduct Racetrack. There are local community divisions along this route, between those wanting to convert this corridor to a permanent park with hiking trails versus restoration of LIRR service.

Any expansion of LIRR service between Penn Station to Jamaica or restoration of the old Rockaway Beach branch has other issues to contend with. There is little room to run additional trains into or out of Penn Station during either AM or PM rush hours. Three of four tunnels running inbound AM and outbound PM rush hours have very tight spacing between trains. One tunnel is shared by the LIRR, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak for reverse train movements with equally tight spacing during rush hours.

Estimated costs for this type of proposed project would be based upon planning feasibility studies and or environmental documents with little design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any actual construction costs. Is anyone aware of any recent planning feasibility studies or environmental documents recently completed to support this proposed project? This work would have to be refined as the project progressed beyond the planning and environmental phases into real and final design efforts. Value engineering which is a process used to reduce costs would be used during the final design phase. Unfortunately, history has shown that estimated costs for construction usually trend upwards as projects mature toward 100% final design. Progression of final design refines the detailed scope of work necessary to support construction. The anticipated final potential cost for this project will never be known until completion. Costs will be further refined by award of construction contracts followed by any unforeseen site conditions and change orders to the base contracts during the course of construction.

History has told us that construction of most major new transportation system expansion projects or restoration of service on any abandoned corridor such as this can take years or even decades between the time of all the feasibility studies, environmental reviews, planning, design, engineering, real estate acquisition, permits, procurements, construction, budgeting, identifying and securing funding to pay for all of the above.

It is difficult for anyone at this point to really predict when we will see a shovel in the ground for this new proposal, followed years later by beneficial use of the project supporting opening day revenue service or the final price tag to taxpayers.

LARRY PENNER

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