LIRR riders were not expected to face a rough rush hour Friday morning as crews raced to repair a signal cable that was cut Thursday, a mistake that led to a shutdown of two tunnels during the afternoon commute.
The cable operated signals in two of the four East River tunnels, and it was inadvertently severed by a contractor excavating in Queens as part of the East Side Access, Long Island Rail Road officials said.
LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said late Thursday night a normal rush hour was expected and service the rest of the day also was expected to be normal. Donovan said an investigation is underway on how the contractor, Tutor Perini Corp., damaged the cable.
Workers with heavy equipment damaged the cable during construction to realign rail tracks and install more switches near the LIRR Sunnyside yard, Donovan said. The California-based company was awarded the $261 million contract for the Queens work in 2008 to help link LIRR to Grand Central Terminal.
"They were excavating to demolish manholes," Donovan said. "They dug in the wrong area."
A spokesman for Tutor Perini referred questions to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the LIRR.
The signals were lost at about 3:10 p.m. and became a bigger problem during the afternoon rush, when three of the four tunnels are normally reserved for eastbound trains. At least 45 trains were delayed Thursday night and at least 13 canceled out of 128 peak-hour trains, the LIRR said.
Crews were expected to work overnight to avoid morning delays.
If work is not finished by morning, that leaves only two tunnels operating.