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Patchogue residents say they’re rattled by idling LIRR trains

Bob Goodhue stands on his front lawn in

Bob Goodhue stands on his front lawn in Patchogue while just behind him an LIRR train sits idling, Aug. 19, 2017. Goodhue is among Patchogue residents and officials who complain that an LIRR passenger train regularly sits idling for hours each weekend. Goodhue compares the noise to a "mini-earthquake." Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Some Patchogue residents say their homes — and their nerves — are rattled each weekend by Long Island Rail Road trains that sit idling for hours between trips.

Academy Street resident Bob Goodhue said his house shakes every Saturday and Sunday while trains rest on the tracks east of the station — with their diesel engines still running. He said he has circulated a petition asking the LIRR to do something about it.

“It feels like a mini-earthquake,” Goodhue, 61, a landscaper, said. “You sit down and try to have dinner or watch a ballgame, the whole house vibrates.”

Mayor Paul Pontieri and Suffolk County Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) agree that noise, vibrations and odorsfrom the trains disturbs residents. They say LIRR and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have appeared to be reluctant to address the problem.

Calarco and Pontieri said LIRR officials have told them eastbound trains finish their runs in Patchogue on weekends and remain in the village until they are needed to transport westbound passengers. Both said they have discussed the issue with MTA officials, though the county and village have no jurisdiction over the state agency.

“The railroad needs to find a way to become more helpful to the neighbors,” Calarco said. “They’ve never really taken any kind of actions to mitigate the noise. These are diesel trains. They’re not electric trains. They’re very loud and they emit fumes.”

In an email, MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said the LIRR “always strives to minimize disturbance to local residents. Diesel trains sometimes idle between runs because the shutdown and startup process can take hours — this is avoided in residential neighborhoods whenever possible.”

Tarek did not provide a detailed explanation for why the trains are left in the village on weekends.

Goodhue said double-decker passenger trains typically sit in Patchogue for about 35 minutes on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The trains later return and remain for about two hours each night, he said, adding that tracks are right behind his house.

Pontieri said residents have complained about the idling trains for more than two decades. He said the trains also tie up traffic in the village, because gates at two grade crossings remain lowered while the trains are idling. That also could prevent emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances from responding to calls, he said.

“It’s problematic on two levels,” Pontieri said. “First, the residents have to listen to this idling train . . . And there’s probably a 10- or 15-minute period of time [when the gates at] West Avenue and South Ocean Avenue are down.”

Calarco said the LIRR or MTA should plant trees or add fencing to absorb noise from the trains.

“I don’t think there is an easy solution,” Calarco said. “But what we would really like to see is the railroad at minimum to put in some kind of a buffer.”

Goodhue said his petition has been signed by about 16 residents.

“I’m tired of it. I want this problem resolved,” he said. “I know the train has got to run, but they shouldn’t be putting this idling train down here.”

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