It was decided at the time, probably based on a cost-benefit analysis, that investing millions of dollars to upgrade the station made no economic sense. Research indicated that there would be a poor return in potential ridership.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority included $40 million in the 2015-2019 Capital Stations Program to support reopening the Elmhurst station. The was included in the MTA 2015-2019 Capital Program.
The original Elmhurst station was built on street level going across Broadway past Whitney Avenue. The station had a long platform and pedestrian underpass near the corner of Ketcham Place and 43rd Avenue to 88th Street. The underpass is still used today.
There was also an entrance to the Port Washington-bound platform near the corner of Cornish Avenue and Broadway, along with a tunnel leading to the Elmhurst Avenue subway station. This subway station is currently served by the M and R lines.
The new station was anticipated to be opened by the end of 2019.
The scope of work needed to reopen the Elmhurst station includes new 12-car platforms, staircases, railings, passenger shelters, ticket vending machines, lighting, signal and security equipment, and elevators to be fully compliant with the Americans Disability Act.
Due to the unfortunate events of Hurricane Sandy in 2011, there is need to create alternative options for commuters, known as “redundancy." Reopening the old Elmhurst LIRR Station would provide a new alternative for Port Washington LIRR customers should disruptions in service occur to either Woodside, Penn Station or the future Grand Central Terminal.
Riders exiting the Elmhurst LIRR Station could also transfer to either the M or R lines, with a second transfer option to the E, F and 7 lines once stop away at the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue station.
In 2017, the MTA added $3 billion to the $29 billion 2015-2019 Five Year Capital Plan. Buried in this plan amendment was reprogramming $37 million originally allocated to support construction of the new Elmhurst LIRR Station to pay for other projects.
Only $3 million remains for preliminary design and environmental review. Money to support final design and construction will now have to wait until the 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Plan is adopted.
The overall project cost originally forecast for $40 million will probably require millions more due to inflation. Completion of final design and engineering may not occur until 2021. This would be followed by the award of a construction contract in 2022.
Actual construction and completion may require another two years. As a result, the original project completion date for reopening the Elmhurst LIRR Station in 2019 will probably occur five years later in 2024.
This is disappointing but not surprising given recent manipulations and shortfalls in the MTA overall capital program budget.
Larry Penner worked 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation.