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Queens Chronicle

Elmhurst LIRR stop not a slam dunk

Capital Program Review Board nixes MTA budget; new station ‘still in mix’

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Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2014 10:30 am

Nearly 30 years after Long Island Rail Road passenger trains last stopped in Elmhurst, the MTA has laid out plans to construct a new stop in the bustling northwest Queens neighborhood.

However, area elected officials and civic associations who have pressed for a station for years shouldn’t consider the $40 million plan as set in stone just yet.

The MTA’s Capital Program Review Board rejected the agency’s 2015-2019 capital budget last Thursday, leaving the futures of the dozens of projects laid out in the program, including the proposed Elmhurst station, up in the air for now.

According to the MTA, $4 million would be spent on the station’s construction in 2016 and $36 million would be spent in 2018, adding up to a total of $40 million.

The stop would be along the Port Washington Branch and feature elevators between the 12-car platform and the street in order to be fully ADA-compliant.

The station would also contain staircases, platform shelters and ticket-vending machines.

The former Elmhurst station was closed and razed in January 1985.

The rejection of the MTA’s proposed budget may sound worrisome, but Joan McDonald, the state Department of Transportation commissioner and chairperson of the Capital Program Review Board, said in a statement on Tuesday the group nixed the budget to allow for additional time to parse it.

“I vetoed the plan without prejudice,” McDonald said, “so that we had sufficient time to evaluate the capital plan proposal, the various proposals that may be part of the capital and may require legislative approval and to do the proper due diligence.”

According to a state DOT spokesman, the rejection of the budget is not unusual.

Since the Capital Program Review Board’s creation in 1982, the only plan it accepted on first submission was the one for 1982-1986.

Every budget since was rejected because the 90-day review period “simply isn’t long enough” to properly analyze the plan, with the renegotiation, resubmission and approval of new budgets occurring weeks later.

MTA spokesman Sal Arena said the review board’s rejection is “just a pro forma first step” and that the Elmhurst proposal is “still in the mix.”

“It’s what they do every time,” Arena said of the board’s decision. “Technically nothing is on the table or off the table at this point. Elmhurst is in no danger at this moment, but whether it survives remains to be seen.”

Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Reps. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens) expressed their hope for the Elmhurst station plan in a joint statement issued Wednesday.

“As the MTA spokesman said, the veto was expected and it gives the board more time to review the plan,” the electeds said. “Nothing is off the table and we’re hopeful that funding for this critical investment in Elmhurst will continue to move forward.

“In the coming days,” they continued, “we will send a letter to Commissioner McDonald urging that the money proposed for this project be kept intact.”

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