LIRR completes escalator upgrade program

An LIRR train pulling into the Mineola station.

An LIRR train pulling into the Mineola station. (May 6, 2011) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

The Long Island Rail Road has completed repairs and upgrades to its 11 oldest escalators nearly one year after a woman's death at the Lindenhurst station led the agency to shut them down for several months.

Railroad president Helena Williams said Monday at a meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's LIRR Committee that, as of March 1, the escalators had been overhauled and returned to service.

The project started after the March 13, 2012, death of Irene Bernatzky, 88. She fell on the escalator and was asphyxiated when a piece of clothing became entangled in the moving machinery.

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The $5-million project involved repairing and replacing components on the escalators and installing new safety technology, including sensors that stop the stairs when they detect something is caught in the machinery.

The escalators at Baldwin, which had been taken out of service in May, and at Freeport, which closed in June, were the last to be restored.

"We have them all back, and we're very pleased with the program and their reliability," Williams said.

The LIRR will next undertake reviews and, if necessary, repairs and upgrades to its elevators. That effort would be "a very close examination as to the condition of the elevators," Williams said. "So we may need to take some elevators out of service as we go forward with that program."

The review, which will cost $2 million, is to include all 27 customer elevators in the LIRR system. It will check for issues including proper door alignment, one of the most persistent problems, said Joe Calderone, the agency's customer service vice president.

Each elevator will be out of service for about a week, he said, adding that the review "shouldn't have nearly as much customer impact," as the escalator project.

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