Port Jefferson Branch
The Port Jefferson Branch is a rail line and service owned and operated by the Long Island Rail Road in the U.S. state of New York. The branch splits from the Main Line just east of Hicksville and runs northeast and east to Port Jefferson. Several Main Line stations west of Hicksville are served by trains bound to/from the Port Jefferson branch, so LIRR maps and schedules for the public include that part of the Main Line in the "Port Jefferson Branch" service.
The Port Jefferson Branch is one of the busiest branches of the LIRR, with frequent electric service to Huntington, and diesel service east of Huntington. Many LIRR commuters and the MTA consider the line as the "Port Jefferson/Huntington Branch", due to Huntington being the termination point for electrics.
Route and plans
Port Jefferson Branch service (as distinct from the piece of railroad called the Port Jefferson Branch) extends east from Floral Park, where the Hempstead Branch separates from the Main Line. The line west of Huntington is electrified and double tracked. Electrification extends to a point east of Huntington before Greenlawn station on a layup track for electric trains. East of there the line is single track with passing sidings at Greenlawn, east of East Northport, Kings Park, Smithtown and Stony Brook.
Stations on the electrified portion that have the heaviest traffic include Mineola, Hicksville, and Huntington. On the non-electrified portion, the heaviest traffic tends to be to the Stony Brook station where the State University of New York at Stony Brook is located.
There are occasional plans to electrify this line past Huntington, at least to Northport, in conjunction with the construction of a planned new electric train yard, to alleviate overcrowding and service limitations on the Ronkonkoma Branch, and to otherwise accommodate increased ridership expected once the East Side Access project to Grand Central Terminal is completed. As of 2006, funding for this project has been deferred to a future capital budget and preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement has been suspended.
Third Main Line track
A third Main Line track from Bellerose to Mineola has also been proposed in order to provide increased services. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority original proposal was to built the line from Floral Park to Hicksville. Components of the project include purchasing properties in the track's right of way, eliminating grade crossings (in conjunction with NYSDOT), relocating existing stations, and reconfiguring Mineola station. Fierce opposition for building a third track came from the villages of Floral Park, New Hyde Park, and Garden City, which say the construction and the resulting increased train service will reduce the quality of life in their neighborhoods. However, these villages do support station improvements and the elimination of grade crossings. This project has been delayed until 2014 or 2015, when East Side Access nears completion in 2016.
Most Port Jefferson electric trains operate the full route from Penn Station to Huntington. Supplemental service is provided on Ronkonkoma Branch trains to Mineola and Hicksville. Additional service to Mineola is provided by Oyster Bay Branch trains, and some Patchogue-bound Montauk Branch trains also stop at Mineola and Hicksville on weekdays. Also, one Montauk-bound train makes a stop at Hicksville overnight on weeknights. During off-peak hours, including weekends, a diesel shuttle runs between either Hicksville or Huntington and Port Jefferson. During rush hours, there is extra service, including through service to Atlantic Terminal, service to Penn Station that bypasses Jamaica, and direct service to Hunterspoint Avenue, Long Island City, or Penn Station from stations east of Huntington.
The line from Hicksville to Syosset opened in 1854. The LIRR later planned to extend to Cold Spring Harbor, but Oliver Charlick, the LIRR's president, disagreed over the station's location, so Charlick abandoned the grade and relocated the extension south of Cold Spring, refusing to add a station stop near Cold Spring for years. Another argument at Huntington led to the line bypassing the town two miles (3 km) to the south, though a station was built. The line was extended from Syosset past Huntington to Northport in 1868, and in 1873 the Smithtown and Port Jefferson Railroad opened from a mile south of Northport to Port Jefferson, turning the old line into Northport into the Northport Branch, the result of another argument between Charlick and Northport.
The Port Jefferson Branch formerly extended to Wading River in 1895, and was once slated to continue eastward and rejoin the Main Line at either Riverhead or Calverton. From 1905 to 1928, Wading River was also the site of an LIRR Demonstration farm. The other one was east of Medford station on the Main Line. The line east of Port Jefferson was abandoned in 1938. The right-of-way is now owned by the Long Island Power Authority and used for power lines but there are plans to create a rail trail for bicycling, running, and walking. The Port Jefferson Branch was electrified to Huntington Station in 1970. The former Northport Branch was abandoned in 1985, and the Kings Park Psychiatric Center spur was abandoned in 1988.
On a small note, electrification reached from Mineola to Hicksville & Huntington in 1970. For 15 years from Amott Interlocking east of Syosset Station to west of Huntington it was single-tracked. In 1985, they constructed a second electrified track in that area to avoid the single track bottle neck, this included Cold Spring Harbor adding a second platform.
Electrification to Port Jefferson
Ever since the branch was electrified to Huntington, the LIRR has always planned on electrifying the rest of the line all the way to Port Jefferson. In the mid-1980s all the stations east of Huntington had hi-level platforms installed for anticipation of the electrification. However it has not happened, but since 2008 the project has gotten the go ahead but it will be delayed due to the LIRR budget and likely the project will not begin anytime soon.
Grade Crossing eliminations; Past and future
The Port Jefferson Branch has also been known to have the most hazardous grade crossings in the country. In 1982, a van was struck by a diesel train at the Herricks Road crossing in between Mineola and Merillon Avenue. The crossing for many years was dubbed by the NTSB as "The most dangerous crossing in the U.S." In 1998, after a complicated project the crossing was finally eliminated with the tracks now going over a bridge. Other crossings eliminated along the branch include: Mineola Boulevard in Mineola (1930), crossings within Hicksville when the station was elevated in the early 1960s, and Charlotte Avenue in Hicksville (1973). Ten years later Roslyn Road also in Mineola was eliminated in the same fashion. Other hazardous crossings along the branch west of Huntington are Robbins Lane & Jackson Avenue in Syosset, School Street & Urban Avenue in Westbury, Willis Avenue & Main Street in Mineola, and New Hyde Park Road (the most hazardous today[when?]), 12th Street, and Covert Avenue in New Hyde Park. East of Huntington, Main Street in Port Jefferson is considered quite hazardous. There are plans, after a third track is added, for the branch will be fully elevated and grade separated from Hicksville westward.