For immediate release: July 16, 2008

Kate Slevin, 917-833-9259
Ryan Lynch, 631-742-7528
Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Business, Labor and Environmental Groups Unite for Long Island Public Transportation;
Announce Formation of Long Island Transit Coalition

 A coalition of transportation, business, labor, environmental, planning, health and civic groups gathered at MTA Headquarters Wednesday urging the state to fund public transportation projects that would benefit Long Island residents and transit riders. 

The press conference was held in response to a news report that the Long Island Rail Road Third Track project, a project to add an additional track from New Hyde Park to Hicksville along the LIRR Main Line, may be delayed due to MTA budget constraints. The MTA lacks approximately $17.5 billion of the proposed $30 billion capital plan, which pays for expansion and maintenance projects. The coalition initially formed in 2004 to advocate for the LIRR Third Track project.

The coalition, now expanded into the Long Island Transit Coalition, called for state elected officials to fully fund projects in the MTA’s capital program, including the Grand Central Terminal East Side Access project and the LIRR Third Track. When completed, East Side Access will bring approximately 160,000 riders each way, each weekday directly to and from the east side of Midtown Manhattan and shave approximately 40 minutes off current round trip commute times. LIRR Third Track is necessary for Long Islanders to reap all the benefits of the new connection, enable more intra-Island transit trips, and facilitate reverse commutes for workers on Long Island.

The group comprises a diverse swath of over a dozen organizations from across the metropolitan area, including the Long Island Federation of Labor, the Long Island Contractor’s Association, the Long Island Rail Road Commuter’s Council, Long Island Mid-Suffolk Business Association, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Regional Plan Association, Vision Long Island, Sustainable Long Island, New York League of Conservation Voters, Long Island Progressive Coalition, the Long Island Regional Planning Board, the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, and Long Island Neighborhood Network.  

“We will not stand silent while vital transit projects like the Third Track project are potentially delayed,” said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly and equitable transportation system in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “At a time of record gas prices, our elected officials must move transit projects forward, not allow them to derail.”

“The Third Track decision by the MTA is like Crazy Eddie’s prices: Insane!,” said Marc Herbst, Executive Director of Long Island Contractor’s Association.  “Public works projects that helped pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression and more public investment in the future is needed today to do the same thing — not less. Delays such as this wind up costing taxpayers millions more in higher construction and interest costs and the inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of commuters.”

"With high gas prices, Long Islanders need travel options. Third track will do this and fuel Long Island's future economy, which will depend on intra-Island travel and reverse commuting capabilities," said Jeffrey M. Zupan, Senior Fellow, Transportation, Regional Plan Association. "Many important projects exist; picking and choosing between them is symptomatic of larger funding issue that the legislature must address."

“Postponement of the Third Track is not acceptable,” said John R. Durso, President of the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “The Third Track is essential to the economic health and future growth of the Long Island economy. In these tough economic times, the Third Track project is more important than ever. We fully support the plans for the East Side Access and demand support for the Third Track to benefit our Long Island community, and the continued growth of our middle class. It’s time for state leaders to make our priorities their priorities.”

"The Long Island Rail Road set a new record for ridership last year and demand is only growing. With more passengers making the switch to cost-efficient mass transit, now is the time to enhance service, increase capacity and plan for a more environmentally sustainable future," said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "The state's elected leadership must redouble its efforts to fund the MTA so vital projects like the Third Track can stay on track."

“The Third Track is an integral part of developing an intra-Long Island transportation system. With gas prices and cost of living as high as they are we must make public transportation investments the highest priority. The MTA and NYS DOT must reconsider pouring money into road widening projects while cutting public transportation projects. The States needs to change their priorities,” stated Lisa Tyson, Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition

Gerry Bringmann, Chair of the LIRR Commuter Council, points out the significance of this group forming: “With MTA’s financial condition rapidly eroding and capital projects critical to LIRR’s future, such as East Side Access and Third Track, now in jeopardy, the Coalition’s voice should be viewed as a wake-up call to Albany:  Ridership is increasing and the funding must be in place to make the necessary investments to accommodate this growth.”

“Long Islanders crucially need more transit options and a higher level of service to get out of their cars and use public transit,” said Sarah Lansdale, Executive Director of Sustainable Long Island.   “In order to begin to move towards a sustainable region - a region where everyone can access transit for enhanced economic, cultural and educational opportunities - the MTA and LIRR need to invest in Long Island’s antiquated infrastructure.  It’s time for the MTA and LIRR to get Long Islanders moving (and not in our cars).”

“The ability for downtowns to grow requires transportation infrastructure like the Third Track project.  Vision Long Island is disappointed with the MTA’s decision to delay this project and hope that they will get their priorities in order,” said Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island.