Good news for rail and road users four weeks after Sandy

Full service resumes on the Long Island Rail Full service resumes on the Long Island Rail Road's Long Beach Branch for the first time since superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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Four weeks after superstorm Sandy devastated parts of Long Island, commuters returning to work from the long Thanksgiving weekend got some much-needed good news Monday as the Long Island Rail Road restored electric train service to embattled Long Beach.

"Restoring electric train service to Long Beach has been at the top of the LIRR's priority list," railroad president Helena Williams said in a statement released Sunday. "We recognize the importance of regular train service as the rebuilding effort continues in the Long Beach community and other hard-hit communities all along the Long Beach Branch."

Better news also awaited motorists as the Queens-Midtown Tunnel resumed its three-lane morning peak traffic pattern and the iconic Ocean Parkway reopened to traffic -- albeit with speed restrictions in place.

New Jersey commuters heading into Manhattan thought they had gotten some good news, as well, as the Port Authority announced the resumption of PATH train service between Newark-Penn Station to World Trade Center and Journal Square to 33rd Street.

But power problems later caused PATH to temporarily suspend service between Newark and World Trade Center.

The restoration of LIRR electric train service -- as well as the restoration of normal Queens-Midtown Tunnel configurations for the Monday morning rush -- were both announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

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The first electric train ran out of Long Beach at 5:35 a.m.

The tunnel was configured to allow for three lanes of traffic into Manhattan starting at 6 a.m., the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

And the iconic 15.5 mile Ocean Parkway, which runs from Captree State Park to the southern tip of the Meadowbrook State Parkway, also was partially reopened Monday.

State agencies and two Long Island companies, Bove Industries and United Fence & Guardrail, have worked around the clock to clear sand and debris from superstorm Sandy and install a makeshift median barrier so that the westbound side of the road can open to single-lane, two-way traffic.

The westbound roadway will reopen with a 35 mph speed restriction in place, officials said.

The eastbound side of the parkway suffered unprecedented damage when it was pounded by Sandy's storm surges that also obliterated the dunes.

In parts, particularly a strip two miles west of Gilgo Beach near Tobay, the ocean overran the road. Newsday reported Sunday that New York State is launching a project to rebuild the iconic parkway, the badly undermined Robert Moses traffic circle and the protective sand dunes along Jones Beach -- with the entire work to be completed before May 1.

As for the LIRR, it had previously resumed limited service on the Long Beach Branch using diesel locomotives.

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Despite the restoration of electric service, the LIRR said four morning peak trains and four evening peak trains are canceled -- due to limited capacity in the storm-damaged East River Tunnels owned by Amtrak. The morning trains include the 6:54 a.m. train from Long Beach to Atlantic Terminal, the 7:23 a.m. from Long Beach to Penn Station, the 7:56 a.m. from Long Beach to Atlantic Terminal and the 8:08 a.m. from Long Beach to Penn.

With Sarah Crichton

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