Currently, the platforms can each accommodate the first four train cars, which often causes issues such as crowding and delays when passengers are boarding and exiting the train, especially during rush hour.
LIRR President Phillip Eng announced that the station platforms going in both directions would be lengthened by 50 percent to accommodate six train cars. LIRR trains can be up to 12 cars long.
The extension will go 200 feet westward using steel scaffolding structures supporting fiberglass decking.
“We’re committed to improving conditions for our Queens customers, and this will make boarding and exiting trains less congested, faster, and more pleasant at both stations,” said Eng in a statement. “We’re taking a new, expedited approach, making improvements quickly to current needs with lower cost yet sturdy materials, while we evaluate a longer-term, permanent solution.”
While Forest Hills and Kew Gardens are the 51st and 56th busiest of the LIRR’s 124 stations, there has been an increase in ridership over the last few years due to concerts at Forest Hills Stadium. The average weekday ridership at Forest Hills is 1,967 passengers and 1,778 at Kew Gardens.
“With the high ridership at these stations, we are experiencing train delays as customers must walk from car to car to be able to reach a door at a platform,” Eng continued. “Because these two stations are at a busy section of the railroad, those delays can cause trains behind to be delayed as well.
“Longer platforms should speed up our main line service for all customers traveling between Penn Station and Jamaica,” he added.
A few weeks prior to the platforms announcement, Eng also said the Lefferts Boulevard bridge over the LIRR tracks in Kew Gardens would be preserved.
Eng, who was an engineer before taking over as LIRR president, examined the bridge and determined it could be rehabilitated for $1 million.
Murray Berger, executive chairman of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, said the civic found out about the platforms during the July 11th meeting with Eng concerning the bridge.
“We were very pleased and gratified that they are paying attention to the needs of Kew Gardens and Forest Hills,” Berger said. “We’re pretty happy with President Eng so far.”
He added that once the current projects have been completed at the Kew Gardens LIRR station, he might ask the LIRR to finalize the shelter for the eastbound platform. The plan for that project has been in the works for years.
“I would hope to put it back on their agenda,” Berger said.
Construction on the platforms is slated to begin immediately, although LIRR personnel are analyzing the project to identify a completion date and cost.
According to the MTA, any temporary construction-related changes at either station will be announced closer to the start of construction work.
“For too long, the needs of Queens residents were put on the back burner by the Long Island Rail Road,” said State Senator Leroy Comrie. “I commend President Eng for working to change this by demonstrating a commitment to improving LIRR access and service within our borough.”