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Long IslandTransportation

Lawmaker calls for protest of Amtrak’s Penn operation

Long Island Rail Road passengers enter the staircase

Long Island Rail Road passengers enter the staircase to their train's track during the evening rush hour at Penn Station, Manhattan, Monday, May 8, 2017. The LIRR advised customers to anticipate delays and cancellations during this evening's rush hour. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

An Albany lawmaker Monday called on LIRR commuters to protest Amtrak’s operation of Penn Station — the same day another infrastructure failure near the rail hub resulted in cancellations and delays during the evening rush hour.

A signal problem inside one of the East River Tunnels connecting Penn Station to Long Island forced the cancellation of at least 10 Long Island Rail Road trains, the temporary suspension of westbound service, and also affected service to CitiField for Monday night’s game between the Mets and the San Francisco Giants.

Amtrak, which owns and maintains Penn and the tunnels, said the problem was repaired and the track returned to service about 4:50 p.m. — less than an hour after it was reported. The issue was not expected to have any impact on the Tuesday morning commute.

The signal glitch was the latest of several Amtrak infrastructure failures, including two derailments caused by track problems, that have resulted in major disruptions to the LIRR — Penn’s primary tenant — in recent weeks.

In response to the slew of problems in Penn Station, Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) announced Monday his plans for a “Rally for a Sane Commute” at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Rockville Centre LIRR station just outside his district office.

“It’s time to sack Amtrak,” a promotional flier released by Kaminsky’s office said. “Penn Station is a disaster and commuters deserve a better LIRR.”

On Saturday, Kaminsky posted a petition on his Facebook page, urging LIRR commuters to support Amtrak relinquishing control of Penn Station so that the state could take over the century-old transit hub.

The recent problems led to Amtrak last month announcing a plan to take several Penn Station tracks out of service for several weeks this summer to renew aging track components.

State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Manhasset) on Friday sent a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, urging the agency to take several steps to minimize disruptions to LIRR riders.

Included among the steps are reducing fares during the planned service disruptions, having Amtrak operate some scheduled Penn trains out of Grand Central Terminal instead, boosting LIRR service at terminals in Brooklyn and Long Island City, and holding public hearings throughout the project.

“Commuters should not have to keep enduring the nightmare they’ve been suffering through at Penn Station,” Phillips said. “The MTA needs to take every possible step to ensure they are protected.”

The plight of Penn Station commuters reached pop culture status over the weekend in the form of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. During the show’s Weekend Update segment, co-anchor Colin Jost reported on an incident last Wednesday involving a pipe bursting over the station, “raining down raw sewage on commuters.”

Jost joked that it was “an event Penn Station commuters are calling ‘an improvement.’ ”

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