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LIRR service on time or close after earlier report of debris in East River tunnel

Long Island Rail Road service is on time or close systemwide, officials said, after westbound service between Jamaica and Penn Station was suspended due to a condition in one of the East River Tunnels.

Service had been suspended after a report of a piece of debris hanging off a wall, an LIRR spokesman said.

LIRR customers had experienced delays of up to 30 minutes, and at least 10 trains had been canceled by about 6:45 p.m. Westbound service between Jamaica and Penn Station was suspended so the LIRR could route trains out of Penn using a tunnel typically reserved for inbound trains, LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said.

New York City Transit was honoring LIRR fares on the E subway train between Jamaica and Penn at Kew Gardens and Forest Hills. At Woodside, Port Washington customers were being accommodated by the 7 subway train for westbound service.

Arena said that around 5 p.m., the LIRR received a report from a train crew member of "something hanging from the bench wall" in one of the tunnels. To investigate the report, Amtrak, which owns and maintains the tunnels, shut down the underground tube, "one of the main eastbound tunnels in the rush hours."

Because "trains weren't leaving Penn Station at a regular pace," MTA Police restricted access into the station around 6 p.m. until crowding conditions could be alleviated.

In October, Amtrak disclosed the extent of damage caused to the tunnel bench walls -- used to provide emergency egress and access -- by superstorm Sandy. The October 2012 storm flooded the tunnels with corrosive saltwater that has compromised the concrete bench walls, causing them to crack and crumble in some locations.

Amtrak has proposed a $328 million project to repair the tunnels that it has said will require shutting down two tubes, each for one year at a time. The LIRR -- the tunnels' primary user -- has not said whether it will go along with Amtrak's plan, which would require the railroad to reduce rush hour service while the work is taking place.


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