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Long Island

Cuomo: Storm prep, shift in direction helped keep LIRR on track

The scene from the Long Island Rail Road's Valley Stream station, where relatively few commuters boarded the 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, heading to Penn Station by way of Jamaica station. (Credit: Newsday / Alfonso A. Castillo)

Preparation and a shift in the path of Tuesday’s storm helped the Long Island Rail Road withstand the frigid weather with limited disruptions, officials said.

Despite concerns that the storm could force a shutdown of the LIRR, the railroad operated on a normal weekday schedule all day, with scattered rush-hour delays in the morning and evening. The LIRR expected to also operate regular service Wednesday morning.

At an afternoon news conference at the Long Island Expressway rest stop in Dix Hills, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo attributed the LIRR’s solid performance to advanced planning, which included 1,500 personnel working specifically on storm preparation and response.

“They prepared for the past two days and it’s been operating very well,” Cuomo said.

The LIRR benefited from the storm tracking farther northwest, where its sister Metropolitan Transportation Authority railroad, Metro-North, suspended service for several hours during the afternoon.

The storm caused some problems for the LIRR, including cancellations, bypassed stations, and an evening suspension of the Long Beach branch east of Island Park because the Reynolds Channel Bridge could not be closed after being opened for emergency boat traffic, railroad officials said.

The service issues affected relatively few customers, as the LIRR reported ridership to be about 10 percent to 15 percent of a typical weekday. At 8:30 a.m. in Penn Station —known as the busiest commuter rail station in the continental United States — several businesses were shuttered and a smattering of commuters had plenty of room to stretch out.

“I love it right now. It’s way better than it usually is,” said Orlando Valerio, 29, an NYPD officer heading home to Port Jefferson after his shift. “I had planned to sleep at work, but I saw the trains were running, so I said, ‘All right. I’ll go home.’”

Riders on Long Island’s two major public bus systems were also affected. Nassau’s NICE Bus suspended or detoured service on five routes for several hours, and Suffolk Transit did not operate at all Tuesday. Both bus agencies expected to resume normal service in time for the Wednesday morning commute.

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