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LIRR's Williams: Gap accidents reduced in half

Commuters wait to board an incoming westbound train

Commuters wait to board an incoming westbound train at the Freeport LIRR station. (March 10, 2010) Credit: Newsday/ J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Accidents involving the gap between Long Island Rail Road station platforms and its train doors fell 56 percent in 2009, compared with 2007, LIRR president Helena Williams said Monday.

The reduction follows a broad campaign to reduce the gaps and raise awareness of their dangers following the August 2006 death of Natalie Smead, 18, of Minnesota, who was killed by an LIRR train in Woodside after falling through a gap.

After rising to 175 in 2007, gap accidents fell to 119 in 2008 and 77 in 2009, Williams said Monday at the Long Island Committee meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"We think that our efforts are contributing to those reductions," Williams said.

A five-month Newsday investigation, published in January 2007, reported that about 38 percent of 262 LIRR platforms had problem gaps and that railroad officials knew they were dangerous for decades but did little to fix the problems. It also found that, since 1995, the LIRR had logged nearly 900 gap incidents from Penn to Bridgehampton stations.

In a memo to the LIRR MTA board committee, Williams said the railroad has reduced gaps by 1 inch on more than 90,000 feet of platforms with wooden edge board since 2008.

The gap has further been reduced by adding 2-inch metal plates to the base of nearly every train car door and by adjusting platform height at nine stations in 2009, the memo stated.

More than $20 million has been spent to reduce gaps, an LIRR spokesman said.

Gaps of 10 inches or more still exist in 13 train door locations - nine at Flatbush Avenue station, three at Penn Station Track 19 and one at Long Beach, the memo stated.

With Pervaiz Shallwani

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