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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Letter to the Editor


Dear Editor, 

The on-line survey being conducted by the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning to understand the extent of public support for electrification of LIRR’s Port Jefferson branch is nothing new. ”The Path Forward: Electrifying the Port Jefferson Branch of LIRR” by Anthony Figliola is nothing new.  

The idea has been periodically advocated since the 1960’s by generations of elected officials with no success. In 1970, electrification was extended from Mineola to Huntington. In the1980’s, discussions took place between the MTA, LIRR, Suffolk County and elected officials over which branch should be electrified first. The Ronkonkoma branch was selected over the Port Jefferson branch. It took 35 years before the completion of full double track electrification between Hicksville and Ronkonkoma. The estimated cost to extend electrification beyond Huntington today is $3.6 billion. This will increase over time.  

Billions are necessary to pay for planning, design and engineering, environmental review, land acquisition for construction of power sub stations, expansion of commuter parking, relocation and/or consolidation of existing stations, new stations and platforms, new electric Multiple Unit car storage yard, double tracking, third rail, signals and construction management.  

From start to finish, this could require fifteen to twenty years. For the project to proceed, it must be included within the MTA’s upcoming 2025-2044 Twenty Year Capital Plan. This is due to be released in October 2023. To pay for future construction, the project would require a Federal Transit Administration Full Funding Grant Agreement under the national competitive discretionary Capital Investments Grant Core Capacity New Starts program. It would have to be matched by two billion or more of local MTA sources.  

Even if the project is given a green light, based upon my past experiences on other FTA, MTA, and LIRR projects, Port Jefferson branch electrification will not be completed until 2040 or later. Supporters should lobby Governor Kathy Hochul, MTA Chairman Janno Lieber and LIRR President Catherine Rinaldi if you ever want to see this project get underway within your lifetime.  

Sincerely, Larry Penner 

Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously served as a former Director for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office of Operations and Program Management. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, NYC Transit bus, subway and Staten Island Railway, Suffolk County Transit, Huntington Area Rapid Transit (HART) bus along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ.