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LIRR weekend service disruption delays commuters, Rangers fans en route to Manhattan

Long Island Rail Road commuters line up and

Long Island Rail Road commuters line up and board MTA buses heading to Mineola outside the Hicksville LIRR train station on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Trains won't be running between Hicksville and Mineola while demolition begins on the Ellison Avenue Bridge in Westbury on May 16 and 17. Credit: Steve Pfost

Thousands of Long Island Rail Road riders, including Rangers fans bound for Madison Square Garden, were forced to find alternate means of getting around Saturday amid a planned weekend suspension of train service between Hicksville and Mineola.

Shuttle buses were provided between the two stations while demolition began on the Ellison Avenue Bridge in Westbury. Riders who use the Ronkonkoma and Port Jefferson branches should plan an extra 60 minutes in their travel time, or avoid the delays by switching to the South Shore or Port Washington branches, an LIRR spokeswoman said.

Minutes before the 11:18 a.m. bus departure Saturday from Hicksville, a flood of Rangers fans ran off the westbound Port Jefferson branch train, some scurrying toward the dozen or so LIRR crew members in orange vests to seek directions on how to make it to Penn Station.

Others appeared worried about getting to Penn Station in time for the 1 p.m. faceoff at the Garden in the opening game of the Rangers' playoff series versus the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Chris Silvestri, 31, of Huntington, wearing a Henrik Lundqvist jersey, and Cassidy Hamann, 31, of Mill Neck, burst through the glass doors of the waiting room, staring at their cellphones to check train schedules. They said they were aware some changes were made to this weekend's trains, but didn't realize it would affect their trip.

"We're trying to figure out what's the fastest way to get there," Hamann said. They boarded one of the buses, yelling, "Let's go Rangers!"

The buses pulled out a few minutes behind schedule. But the bus made it to Mineola in time for the 11:58 a.m. train arriving at Penn Station at 12:38 p.m., the spokeswoman said.

MTA buses were to run between Mineola and Hicksville for the entire weekend.

Taxi requests were down about 30 percent at Oyster Rides, a cab service that has a kiosk operating out of the Hicksville train station, according to dispatcher Christopher Benny. About 10 people had asked for taxis as of noon yesterday, a few in a hurry to catch flights at Kennedy Airport and others who wanted a ride all the way into the city.

"I think most people had advanced notice of the changes, so they made alternate plans," Benny said.

Other riders were unfazed, praising the LIRR for making the changes well-known weeks in advance.

"If I get there, I get there, if I don't, I don't," Esther Williams, 35, a service coordinator from Hicksville, said with a laugh. "I just pushed my plans back a little. I'm just winging it, enjoying the ride."

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