MTA LIRR Now Making Street &Highway Crossings A "Grade" Above



The next time you happen to travel over a Long Island Rail Road grade crossing in your car and don't notice any difference (boy, was that smooth!) you probably have the LIRR Engineering Department to thank. Special attention is being paid to those intersections of road and rail that all too often have caused some teeth rattling bounces for motorists and even sometimes slowed down trains.

An observant pedestrian walking across a LIRR grade crossing in the recent past may have noticed the rubber panels laid across the intersection along with the asphalt paving. When new, this crossing surface performed well but, unfortunately, over time with heavy truck and auto traffic along with the annual freeze-thaw cycle, many crossings developed potholes and uneven surfaces mostly due to shifting rubber panels and asphalt eroding away.

Since 2001, LIRR grade crossings began to be changed, bringing relief to Long Island motorists. It was something that may seem quite routine but is so important where the rubber and steel wheels meet the road. The difference is pretty simple: concrete has bounced rubber, crossing pads, that is. In addition, the old track over the crossing and asphalt through and near the intersection of track and highway has been removed and replaced with concrete track ties and standard 136 pound rail compared to the 100 pound rail present at some locations.

For example, two grade crossings along the Main Line east of Ronkonkoma, Peconic Lane in Peconic and Horton Lane in Southold, are being renewed in May. Concrete crossing pads and rail ties will replace rubber crossing pads, asphalt and wood track ties that have been there for over 15 years (see before and after photos).

Since the "concrete renewal program" began nine years ago, 227 grade crossings (double track crossings are counted as two separate crossing replacements) have seen concrete replace rubber. There are 296 public grade crossings and 97 private grade crossings in the LIRR service area, so it will take several more years before all grade crossings are changed over to the more durable concrete. It's estimated that the concrete grade crossings will last an average 30 years compared to the average 15 years for the rubber ones. For those keeping track, the oldest concrete crossing is along the LIRR's Main Line at Route 111. It was installed in 2001, so it's only a young nine years old.