Monthlong LIRR disruptions begin Monday

Tunnels deep below the surface are part of Tunnels deep below the surface are part of the construction plan for the East Side Access project. (Jan. 28, 2010) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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A tunnel-digging project in Queens will have Long Island Rail Road customers dealing with some canceled trains and other service disruptions during the evening rush hour for about a month, beginning Monday.

As part of the ongoing East Side Access project linking the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal, crews will take a critical rail switch at the busy Harold Interlocking offline to burrow a new tunnel for four weeks. As a result, some trains between Penn Station and Jamaica will be rerouted, and three canceled daily.

The three canceled trains from Penn Station are: the 4:52 p.m. to Babylon; the 5:20 p.m. to Long Beach; and the 5:40 p.m. to Seaford. Schedules on other trains on the Babylon and Long Beach lines will be adjusted slightly, resulting in extra travel time of up to 11 minutes.

LIRR officials said in addition to the planned service disruptions, the loss of "Switch 813" will give the railroad less flexibility to work around any unexpected problems.

Losing the switch "will temporarily reduce the LIRR's operational flexibility and significantly increase the impact of a service disruption should one occur," the railroad said in a statement.

The LIRR said it will have extra rescue equipment and personnel available during the planned disruption.

The LIRR also says that for the last week it's had personnel distributing materials about the disruption and answering question at Penn Station. But LIRR Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein said he and other council members have not seen the LIRR workers at Penn, and wishes the rail road had a more visible presence there to inform riders, and done so weeks ago.

"It's too late, and it's not enough," he said.

The LIRR's plan marks the first time that East Side Access construction has impacted rush hour commuters. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority earlier this year said it would consider such service disruptions, as necessary, the $8.24 billion project is expected to be finished by 2019.

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