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Three LIRR Stations Set for ADA Compliance

Major modernization and rehabilitation projects have commenced at three Long Island Railroad (LIRR) stations as part of the MTA's 2020-2024 capital plan. In collaboration with lead designer AECOM, Forte is spearheading the extensive design-build renovations to bring the LIRR stations at Forest Hills, Hollis, and Babylon into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A rendering of the upgraded Forest Hills LIRR station
Rendering of the upgraded Forest Hills LIRR station

Renovations began on May 22 at Forest Hills Station and aim to enhance passenger capacity and accessibility while preserving the station's historic essence. The station's two platforms will be replaced with permanent extensions to accommodate 10-car trains instead of the current 6-car limit. A visual barrier wall will be erected on the Southwest side to shield nearby residences from construction activities.

Although Forest Hills has two handicap-accessible entryways, they are too steep to meet current ADA standards. These will be replaced with two heated, ADA-compliant ramps, providing access to both platforms. An additional 1,000-foot walkway will connect Ascan Avenue to the platform entrance. The ramps and platforms will feature Automatic Snow and Ice Melt Systems (ASIMS).

Constructed in 1906, Forest Hills station is among New York City's oldest active passenger railway stations. On July 4, 1917, former President Theodore Roosevelt delivered his renowned "Unification Speech" from the steps of this station, advocating for American involvement in World War I. The State Historic Preservation Office has certified the renovation to ensure the station's distinctive brick and stucco design remains intact. Only the concrete of the station house will be replaced.

Rendering of the upgraded Hollis LIRR station
Rendering of the upgraded Hollis LIRR station

Further east in Queens, the Hollis station renovation will rejuvenate a facility that has seen little change since its station house was destroyed by arson in 1967. New canopies will replace the existing open-air shelters.

Currently, Hollis Station has only two staircases from a pedestrian tunnel as entry points. The renovation will include a new elevator at the southside entrance and a new ramp on the north side, achieving ADA compliance. The platforms will be extended from 340 to 680 feet to accommodate 8-car trains, doubling the current 4-car capacity. Precast culvert tunnel sections weighing around 60,000 pounds each will be installed to create a new pedestrian egress pathway to the extended platforms. Additional staircases will enhance access to nearby bus drop-off locations on Hollis Avenue, along with a new elevator servicing the southern platform.

Rendering of the upgraded Babylon LIRR station
Rendering of the upgraded Babylon LIRR station

On Long Island, the Babylon station will undergo extensive upgrades to replace infrastructure dating back to 1964. This includes the installation of two new ADA-compliant elevators, replacements for two existing elevators and escalators, and full canopy and platform replacements, including ASIMS snowmelt systems. The current escalator will be widened to meet code requirements while maintaining Babylon's 12-car service.

The most significant challenge of the Babylon project will be constructing the middle island platforms while trains are in service. The design-build team is developing innovative methods to remove cast-in-place concrete canopies and platforms adjacent to operating trains. The elevated platform poses additional challenges for removing and reinstalling the new precast ASIMS integrated platforms, which weigh around 20,000 pounds each.

"What sets this project apart is that each of the three stations operates on different branches, yet share almost identical construction timelines," said Project Manager Dan Villandre, P.E. "The Design-Build team embraces the accompanying challenges within this fast-paced environment, both designing and constructing each station concurrently. The project team is committed to delivering stations that instill pride in both commuters and communities."

All three stations will receive sidewalk improvements, electrical and mechanical enhancements, lighting and signage, and updated fire alarm systems. Rail service will continue uninterrupted during the construction process.

"We're extremely proud to partner with the MTA in restoring and fortifying these historic rail stations in Queens and Long Island," said President Larry Pappas of Forte Construction. "Bringing the stations into compliance with ADA standards marks another step towards our ultimate goal of making transit accessible to everyone across the New York downstate region."


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