LIRR Construction Raises Fears of Major Traffic Jams

This weekend, prepare to see the busiest commuter railroad in the country without two-thirds of its service.

In an area like Long Island, where many railroad passengers also have cars, getting around will not be completely inhibited. At least that's according to Veronica Vanterpool, the associate director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

“People are going to drive,” she said. “Do I have data to back that up? No. But when we don't have mass transit as a viable alternative, that's what happens."

Government agencies throughout the region had different ideas about just how many people will take to the road this weekend.

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams said Thursday she did not expect the region’s roadways would be overwhelmed by cars -- though she admitted the agency hadn’t done an analysis.

Likewise, spokeswoman Eileen Peters of the New York State Department of Transportation didn’t predict massive traffic jams.

But the people who run the Queens Midtown Tunnel -- which happens to be a different branch of the MTA -- considered the possibility of traffic tie-ups to be real enough.

The Bridges and Tunnels division is keeping all four lanes open this weekend, spokeswoman Judie Glave said in an e-mail, “in order to accommodate people who normally take the Long Island Rail Road into the city but may decide to drive this weekend as a result of work going on at LIRR's Jamaica Station.”

Just how much more traffic will there be? Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggests something less than 20 percent.

About 475,000 vehicles use the three major expressways on a typical day, according to the state transportation department.

The Long Island Rail Road says about 78,000 riders generally take the railroad each weekend day. But these numbers are apples and oranges, because the roadway traffic count factors in both weekends and higher travel on weekdays.

So if all of those riders took cars instead of the train, the number of vehicles would increase by roughly 16 percent.

Then again, many won’t travel at all. A few will take the railroad and put up with up to 70 minute delays. And a few lucky souls that live near the Port Washington line, the only line that won’t be affected, should'n't experience many delays.

You can find more information on the diversions, at the LIRR Web site here.

Tell us how bad the traffic is this weekend, add your comments below.