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LIRR to replace six station escalators less than 2 years after renovations

A commuter rides the escalator at the Lindenhurst

A commuter rides the escalator at the Lindenhurst Long Island Rail Road station, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

The Long Island Rail Road, less than two years after spending $5 million to renovate several aging station escalators, will begin work later this year on a $14 million project to replace six of those same escalators.

The replacement of a half-dozen Babylon line escalators is the latest effort by the LIRR to increase safety and reliability after the March 2012 death of an 88-year-old woman who fell on the Lindenhurst station escalator. LIRR officials are to announce the plan today.

The Lindenhurst escalator, along with those at stations in Amityville, Baldwin, Rockville Centre, Freeport and Copiague are all scheduled to be torn out and replaced under the project funded through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's 2014-2019 capital plan. That includes a $9.3 million contract with LoDuca Associates of Holbrook to install the state-of-the-art new escalators, which are expected to all be in place by the summer of 2016, according to the LIRR. The LIRR will spend about $4.7 million on related support projects.

"Our customers rightly expect the escalators and elevators at our stations to be in good working order to move them safely between ground level and our elevated platforms," LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski said in a statement.

Renovated in early 2013
The new effort comes after the LIRR spent $5 million on major repairs and upgrades on 11 of its oldest escalators, including the six now targeted for replacement. That work, completed in early 2013, mainly replaced some components and installed new safety technology, including sensors that stop the stairs when they detect something is caught in the machinery.

Nowakowski, who was not in office at the time of the repair project, said it was a necessary short-term measure to ensure the safety of the aging escalators. But LIRR officials said not all components were replaced, and that even with the upgrades, the six targeted escalators have "been in use well beyond their expected life span."

The LIRR first announced its intention to eventually replace the six escalators in May of 2012 -- two months after a woman fell on an upward escalator at the Lindenhurst station and was choked to death by a piece of her clothing that became entangled in the moving stairs.

The new all-weather, heavy-duty escalators will have centralized monitoring capabilities, obstruction-detection systems and sleep mode technology to reduce energy consumption and wear during low-use periods. Windscreen enclosures surrounding the escalators will be improved, as will the machine rooms, electrical devices, and lighting. Where possible, the LIRR also will widen escalators to 32 inches from 24 inches, the agency said.

LIRR contractors will do the work in two phases, with Amityville, Lindenhurst and Baldwin escalators expected to be finished by June 2015. Nowakowski said the work will not take place at the same time at stations near each other so that customers who need escalators could use them at another close-by station.

Work in design phase
Replacing the Freeport, Copiague and Rockville Centre escalators is to be completed by the summer of 2016.

The project is now in the design stage, with installation to start on the first phase early next year, officials said.

Patrick Carrajat, an independent escalator safety expert, said that while he does not know the specifics of the LIRR's equipment or its plans, he questioned the logic of replacing escalators that were recently rehabilitated.

"If you did a full rehab and you replaced all the prime components and you bring it up to current code, you basically have a new escalator . . . you should get another 20 or 25 years out of it," Carrajat, of Long Island City, said. "It seems to me that they would have been better off going directly to the complete replacement."

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