July 21, 2019
“I’ve been working on the railroad, all the live long day…”
The children’s song referenced above seems to have become a description of my life in recent years, and so to for my fellow Village Board member, Rainer Burger. There is much to share.
Since the closing of the Covert Avenue on April 15th, we have experienced some of the adverse effects we dreaded when the Governor first announced his plans to install a third track on the LIRR mainline and eliminate the three grade crossings in New Hyde Park.
While closing Covert Avenue at Stewart, a move taken by the village an hour after the closure, undoubtedly avoided a steady stream of traffic on 5th and 6th Avenues, South 12th Street continues to take on a greater burden of traffic flow. Obviously, we all expected that when one out of three grade crossings are eliminated, the two remaining crossings will bear a heavier load.
In a letter to Mark Roche, the MTA Project Executive for the LIRR Expansion Project, I asked for his support in securing help from different agencies to relieve the conditions we are experiencing as a result of the project. I then contacted the appropriate agency heads for their direct assistance.
The intention of the detour plan has been to channel most of that traffic to New Hyde Park Road, away from South 12th Street. I have asked 3TC to implement some of the local mitigations to deter traffic from using South 12th Street as a route from Jericho Turnpike to Stewart Avenue. 3TC is recommending additional measures. The Village engineering firm VERTEX is also providing input on traffic mitigation. Some ideas under consideration include:
- No through traffic northbound on South 12th Street from Stewart Avenue
- No through trucking signs on South 12th Street
- Speed bumps on South 12th Street
- No left turn from South 12th Street to Second and Third Avenues
- Temporary traffic signal on South 12th Street at the railroad crossing, also controlling Second and Third Avenues
- Creating of two turning lanes on South 12th Street at Jericho Turnpike
The unintended consequences of these actions must also be considered. Traffic, like water flows in the path of least resistance; securing one route tends to direct the flow elsewhere. The other traffic paradox is that improving the flow along a route, encourages a greater volume of traffic along that route.
Vehicle Traffic Law Enforcement
The village also installed additional stop signs in the area as traffic calming measures, but in today’s society where there seems there is a general diminished respect for institutions of law and order, many motorists glide through stop signs and consider it more of a suggestion than a law they must observe. I have asked for increased enforcement by the Nassau County Police Department in the area. I am happy to report that the Third Precinct has been very cooperative and is writing a lot of tickets for violating vehicle traffic laws.
Inspector Musetich, Commanding Officer of the Third Precinct along with our Problem Oriented Police Officers (POP) addressed the issue at our July Village Board meeting. Inspector Musetich reported that some 45 vehicle traffic law tickets were written in and around South 12th Street since my request for increased enforcement.
Auxiliary Police Cars have also been parked at problematic intersections to deter people from running stop signs.
MTA Police at South 12th Street Crossing
MTA Police presence has been requested to direct traffic across the grade crossing during peak hours. With a railroad crossing in the middle of a six-way intersection, all controlled by stop signs, this crossing has always been difficult to negotiate. The increased volume has made this issue more of a problem. I have yet to get a commitment from MTA Police on this request.
Synchronization of Lights on Jericho Turnpike
I spoke with the Regional Director of the New York State Department of Transportation and explained the conditions we are experiencing on South 12th Street as cars line up waiting to turn on to Jericho Turnpike. He launched an immediate investigation into the issue to better time the lights and synchronize the lights at South 12th and Ingraham Lane on Jericho Turnpike. I have been informed that some initial adjustments have been made but I am still awaiting the details. I have noted that motorists are still stopped at Ingraham Lane after turning right from South 12th Street.
Closure of New Hyde Park Road
The MTA’s design-build firm, 3TC made a strong push for the complete closure of New Hyde Park Road once Covert Avenue reopens in October. The original plans, already approved by the Village of New Hyde Park, calls for construction of a two lane temporary bypass road that essentially moves New Hyde Park Road and the grade crossing slightly westward to enable the new underpass and bridge to be constructed.
3TC believes they can possibly shave the construction period in New Hyde Park by up to 5 months of the 25 months they will be with us. They also cite a safer construction and traffic environment. Of course, there are undoubtably cost savings involved in avoiding the construction of a new road and moving the grade crossing. Both Nassau County and the Village of Garden City consented to the full closure of New Hyde Park Road.
With the backing of the New Hyde Park Village Board, I denied approval of this change and insisted that the original plan, that keeps New Hyde Park Road open be followed. The complete closure of New Hyde Park Road would divert an untenable amount of traffic on our residential streets than we have already experienced with the Covert Avenue closure. This scenario would also close the primary north south truck route through the area. Simply put, 6 lanes across the railroad tracks in New Hyde Park are better than four. The best mitigation efforts we can implement would not adequately protect our neighborhoods from the onslaught of additional traffic. The possible savings of 20% of the overall construction time in New Hyde Park does not justify the intensification and concentration of the burden our community is already bearing for this regional project.
While we work very closely with 3TC and the MTA/LIRR to keep this project moving, so it is completed as fast as possible, our primary concern remains minimizing the adverse effects on village residents and the long-lasting impact of the project on our community.
Closure of Second Avenue
An example of the good working relationship we have with 3TC and their sponsor, is the delayed closure of Second Avenue between Herkomer Street and New Hyde Park Road. During our weekly conference call with 3TC on July 9th, they informed us they planned the closure later that week to begin utility work on Second Avenue in support of the New Hyde Park Road crossing elimination. On close examination of their permit application, Trustee Burger pointed out their application incorrectly reflected the timing of the Second Avenue closure with regards to the workflow. The Village required a two week delay to allow time for 3TC to adequately inform the public of the new configuration. In addition to collaborating with me on a press release, 3TC agreed to put fliers in mailboxes along impacted streets and on the windshield of commuters’ cars.
Utility Poles Planned for New Hyde Park
Since the first discussion of new utility poles in the early planning stages of this project, I have expressed my concern for the possible installation of large utility poles along the railroad. The poles I have seen along the LIRR in Long Island City, for example are massive and out of character for our village. I included language in our MOU that required the MTA to explore the feasibility of burying utility lines in New Hyde Park. The MTA responded eventually that it was not feasible, citing construction delays and an increased cost of $150,000,000 to bury all utilities. I have been asking for renderings of what type of poles are planned for New Hyde Park that have been only recently provided. We see now that the poles they plan to erect are 100’ and 120’ high.
This is very alarming and reflects my fears that these large poles will greatly diminish the suburban character of our village. I met last Friday with the MTA Project Executive and requested more information about these poles.
- What lines will they carry; PSE&G or just power for the LIRR?
- Can the lines for these boles be buried or ensconced in a wall along the right of way?
- Are any poles positioned on Village property?
- Why do the poles need to be so high?
- Will the proposed configuration of poles and wires create less of a “spaghetti effect” of wires than we see today, and will it actually be “cleaner looking”?
- How many other locations along the 9.8 miles of the project will see these poles?
The Village is considering all options with regards to the proposed utility poles.
In addition to these, we have several other ongoing issues and work streams that result from this mega-project whose epicenter of grief seems to be located in New Hyde Park. The work on Covert Avenue seems to be progressing steadily towards the installation of the Covert Avenue bridge on August 24th – 25th.
Please be sure to use the 3TC hotline (516) 203-4955 / firstname.lastname@example.org for any issues. We monitor the log that is created. We follow up with 3TC on a myriad of issues that are concerns to our residents.
Lawrence J. Montreuil
Mayor, Village of New Hyde Park