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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

As Belmont arena proceeds, needed new LIRR station at Elmont may not come without federal bailout of MTA

Construction at the new UBS Arena at Belmont Park is moving forward steadily, scheduled to open for the New York Islanders' hockey season in 2021, but the Long Island Rail Road's new Elmont train station--surely vital to the arena's success, with one-third of attendees expected to use it--faces significant question marks.

Here Are the MTA Projects That May Be Scrapped Without Billions in Federal Bailout, NBC's Andrew Siff reported 7/15/20, citing a list of major projects, such as:
  • Metro-North Penn Station access
  • Phase II of the Second Avenue subway
  • Modernizing and upgrading signals on LIRR from Babylon to Patchogue, replacing two LIRR bridges, and a new LIRR station at Elmont
Note that there's no sign yet of such a bailout.

That said, the inclusion of that new station is confusing, since a contract for more than half the expected spending has apparently already been awarded. Either that contract is not as solid as it seems, or the inclusion of the Elmont station on the list regards the full completion of the project.

The UBS Arena FAQ, excerpted at right, touts "the first new Long Island Rail Road station in almost 50 years."

Contract award

According to the MTA's May 2020 Capital Program Report, cited on p. 157 of the 6/24/20 Joint Metro-North and Long Island Committees Meeting, the project was moving ahead:
Milestone: Contract Award $65,077,338
Project Budget: $105.50M
A Design-Build contract was awarded to Judlau Contracting Inc for $65,077,338 for the design and construction of a new station, Elmont, on the Main Line between Queens Village and Bellerose Stations, that will support the Belmont Park Redevelopment Project. Project work includes design and construction of all the elements required for the new Elmont Station: Installation of north and south side platforms; a pedestrian overpass; and all associated station elements including canopies, lighting, stairs/ramps, CCTV/Security equipment/rooms, audio visual display boards/signage, elevators and machine rooms.
Major construction is expected to begin this summer. The project will be done in two phases. Phase 1 of the project will build a new 8-car south platform on the LIRR's Main Line and improve the existing Belmont Spur and Wye, with completion anticipated in the fall of 2021. Phase 2 will build out the station to a full time LIRR station along with associated track, signal, and other infrastructure, with completion anticipated year-end 2022. In addition to serving Belmont Park racetrack and the New York Islanders hockey team’s new arena, it is anticipated the Elmont Station will serve New York City-bound commuters as well. Currently, the racetrack is served by a part-time station to and from New York on race days only. The new full-time Elmont Station along the LIRR's Main Line, and the improvements to the Belmont Wye, will allow for enhanced special event and commuter service to the Belmont Development area and the surrounding communities.
(Emphasis added)

There's been no announcement of such construction, as far as I know, after searching news sources. According to the MTA's 2015-19 Capital Plan, excerpted below, construction was supposed to start in April.

The rest of the budget?

Note that, if $65 million will build all elements for the station, it's unclear what the additional $40 million would be used for. Transportation historian and advocate Larry Penner, writing in the 2/24/20 Long Island Weekly (pre-pandemic), zeroed in on the uncertainties:
Total cost is suppose to be $105 million. What is the $40 million balance paying for? Costs will be further refined as the project progresses through completion of design and engineering, followed by change orders to this contract during construction, due to last minute changes in scope or unforeseen site conditions. Who will be responsible for additional costs?
‘Will there be any costs to modify, upgrade or build new interlockings and signals along the main line? Will there be any costs for modification to the positive train control project? How will this project be integrated with main line third track, Jamaica capacity improvements and other nearby LIRR capital and routine maintenance projects? Is there a detailed project budget, force account (LIRR employees) plan, track outage plan and schedule to validate the cost and project completion schedule to coincide with the opening of the arena, less than 21 months away?
Penner raised similar questions in a letter 5/25/20 to The Island Now, and added:
What is the current status as to who is going to purchase, operate and maintain the new fleet of shuttle buses, which will connect the Elmont LIRR Station with the Islanders’ arena? Bus manufacturers have a backlog of up to two years for orders already placed by transit agencies. Will they be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act? Who will build a facility for maintenance, storage and powering up electric shuttle buses? Building such a facility can easily require two years. What are the capacity of these electric buses, which could range from 20 to 60 riders?
It will be a major challenge to complete all of the above in time to support the first hockey puck hitting the ice in October 2021. Don’t be surprised if the Islanders play their 2021 – 2022 season in the Nassau Coliseum.

Financing questions

This project involves a curious financing plan. The arena developers are are supposed to provide $30 million upfront and pay the state another $67 million over time. That's been framed by Nassau County Exeutive Laura Curran as "a total private contribution of $97 million of the $105 million total cost."

Of course, if they're paying $67 million over 30 years, the present value is a good deal less that. The total cost of $105 million is not close to being repaid.

Neil deMause, writing in Gothamist, estimated that the financing offered a $33 million public bonus to the developers.

I suspect the questions now regard contract language. If the station is stalled, where does the developer's money go? In escrow? To the general fund? Surely the contract anticipated contingencies.