No reopening date has been set for a pedestrian overpass that has been closed since Feb. 27 at the busy Huntington Long Island Rail Road Station while the agency and town sorted out ownership, railroad officials said.
Town officials closed the bridge after finding weather-related damage at the most easterly overpass that made it unsafe. Steps leading to the north platform were deteriorating and concerns about the overpass itself were raised, town officials said.
But a dispute over jurisdiction between the town and the LIRR delayed getting repair work started.
Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone sent a letter dated May 1 to commuters explaining the closure, saying the LIRR at first said the town owned the overpass and was responsible for its upkeep. The railroad also posted a notice to that effect on its website.
Petrone said it took about a month before paperwork the town had and the incorrect paperwork the LIRR had could be compared to determine ownership and responsibility.
“They had the wrong documentation,” Petrone said. “There was a misunderstanding of the facility in question. Once the correct documentation was found and the facility identified, they didn’t hesitate” to take responsibility.
Aaron Donovan, deputy director for external communications for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said in an email that the LIRR is working with the town.
“We hope to make needed short-term fixes in the coming weeks, enabling us to reopen the overpass,” Donovan said. “For the longer term, we are developing plans to rehabilitate or replace the current overpass in its entirety.”
Commuter Sal Tortora of East Northport, a construction worker, said Monday he has been inconvenienced by the closure and now parks in different areas to be able to use the other walkways.
“It should be a priority getting it fixed,” he said. “It really was unsafe, holes in the concrete, it was dangerous, but they should just fix it. We pay a lot for tickets and prices keep going up.”
Material to repair the overpass has been in place since mid-April and a LIRR engineer visited the site on April 18, town officials said.
“We needed to send the letter to escalate the importance of the matter,” Petrone said.
Gene Cook is the only town board member who did not sign the letter to commuters. He said he didn’t like the “negative tone.”
“Let’s work together and get everybody working on the same page,” Cook said. “I don’t like back and forth stuff, sometimes there are mistakes, they figured it out and the LIRR is going to fix it; it’s over and done with.”
Petrone said he is prepared to ask the LIRR to expedite repairs.
“It’s a public safety issue,” Petrone said. “The Long Island Rail Road is a large organization and we don’t want this to sit and be part of the capital project 2020.”
LIRR officials said the three other pedestrian overpasses at the station have been inspected regularly and do not have any pending issues.
Joseph Lupo, 19, a college student who lives in the Port Jefferson area, said he uses the station four or five times a week and said while the problem needs to be fixed, the LIRR may have other priorities.
“I’ve noticed it,” he said. “It’s been closed a while and really just needs to be fixed, but there are other walkways nearby.”