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Lawmaker urges trackside fire safety study for LIRR, Metro-North

In March, a fire at a recycling plant next to the LIRR tracks in Jamaica disrupted service on four lines for several hours.

A March 16 fire near LIRR tracks in

A March 16 fire near LIRR tracks in Jamaica station is among the service disruptions that led to proposed legislation to study hazards near MTA rail lines, officials said. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A state lawmaker wants the Long Island Rail Road to study potential fire hazards near its tracks, like one that resulted in a four-alarm blaze in Jamaica that snarled one rush hour in March.

Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) recently proposed a bill that would direct the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its two commuter railroads — the LIRR and Metro-North — to conduct a study of industrial properties adjacent to grade level “to identify unsafe and flammable materials that are exposed to commuter operations.”

Comrie said the bill was prompted by a number of fires near LIRR or Metro-North tracks over the years, including the March 16 afternoon fire at a recycling plant right next to the LIRR’s tracks in Jamaica. The fire, which officials said was caused the improper disposal of a lithium ion battery, resulted in the LIRR suspending service on the Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma branches for several hours.

And in May 2016, a fire at a garden nursery under Metro-North’s tracks in East Harlem shut down train service, impacting it for days. Authorities said the fire was worsened by illegal storage of propane tanks at the business.

Comrie said his bill would call on the MTA and its railroads to work with other city and state agencies to form a coalition “to take a look at everything that’s abutting the tracks to ensure safety and security, to make sure communities are protected, and that service reliability is maintained and enhanced.”

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said that although the agency does not comment on pending legislation, “Safety is a core value of the MTA, and we will review this bill with that in mind.”

Comrie said he hopes to have the resolution, and an Assembly version proposed by Assemb. Alicia Hyndman (D-Queens) acted on by the State Legislature before the end of its current session next month.

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