The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (NYMTA) board has approved a $1.8 billion expansion project for another important milestone in Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s, comprehensive, interconnected plan to improve transit and transportation throughout the New York metropolitan region.

The project includes signal system and bridge state-of-good-repair elements, but the central element is the addition of a 9.8-mile third track between Floral Park and Hicksville, NY on a segment of the LIRR mainline that handles more than 250 trains per weekday.

The project also includes removal of seven at-grade rail crossings, where there were more than 100 vehicle strikes in 2015. The work was procured as a design-build contract and awarded to a Dragados USA-lead joint venture called 3rd Track Constructors (3TC).

“This modernization initiative will provide faster commuting with a more reliable network, and will allow us to keep the railroad in a state of good repair,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota. “All too often, major delays on the LIRR are tied to incidents along this corridor. With this investment, Long Islanders and New York City residents alike will be able to avoid the crippling and cascading delays that affect the entire network.”

Governor Cuomo announced the project in January of 2016 and a two-step procurement process was approved by the MTA Board in November of 2016. Four bidders were pre-qualified; MTA convened a series of one-on-one meetings with the bidders. Three of the bidders submitted design-build proposals, which were reviewed by technical committees, including staff from the LIRR, MTA and NY Department of Transportation. The Final Selection Committee, comprised of railroad, transportation, and construction industry experts, reviewed the technical and price proposals during the summer before pricing negotiations this fall.

Beginning in January 2018, the contractors will work to complete design, surveying, mobilization, utility relocations, and other early construction activities. Major construction is expected to begin in late 2018 with project completion in 2022.

Design-build is not new to MTA. MTA has successfully used design-build in other recent projects such as the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, and LIRR’s Ellison Avenue Bridge and Post Avenue Bridge replacements.