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LIRR: Normal morning commute Thursday after broken rail repair

A Penn Station infrastructure renewal plan is expected

A Penn Station infrastructure renewal plan is expected to disrupt LIRR service throughout the summer. Above, LIRR commuters at Penn Station on Friday, March 10, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island Rail Road said commuters can expect a normal morning rush hour Thursday after repairs to a broken rail were completed.

LIRR trains were running on or close to schedule by 8 p.m. Wednesday — hours after a broken rail in the East River tunnel snarled the evening commute — but officials had said they were uncertain the repairs would be completed by Thursday morning.

In a tweet and notice on its website about 5 a.m. Thursday the railroad said, “Anticipate a normal LIRR AM Rush Thursday morning following the completion of repairs to a broken rail in one of the East River tunnels.”

The LIRR had notified riders shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday that they should “expect train cancellations and delays during Wednesday’s afternoon rush hour while Amtrak crews work to repair a broken rail found outside one of Amtrak’s East River Tunnels.”

“Personnel are on the site of the broken rail but do not expect to have repairs completed by the start of the afternoon rush hour,” the LIRR said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Amtrak was working overnight to fix the broken rail, Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Shams Tarek said.

Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz had said Wednesday the broken rail was discovered around 11:20 a.m. and the Long Island Rail Road was immediately notified. The broken rail’s location at the far east end of Penn Station, near the western portal of the tunnels, was restricting the LIRR’s access to three separate tracks.

Amtrak made temporary repairs, but Schulz said workers had to wait until the end of the Wednesday evening rush hour to make final repairs.

“If we weren’t able to make the temporary repairs, it [service] would be worse,” Schulz said.

Schulz had added earlier Wednesday that “assuming that all goes as planned,” there should be no impact on the Thursday morning commute.

Early Wednesday evening commuters at Penn Station had been scanning the display board anxiously to check for their train home Wednesday. Public announcements were repeated frequently to alert them that a broken rail will impact eastbound service through the rush hour commute.

Cynthia Romito, a Bayside resident who works in sales, said her Port Washington train was delayed and that she was expecting an unusually congested evening commute.

“You’d like a seat on your way home to disconnect, but when it’s packed, it’s a little too much,” said Romito, who added that her trains are usually crowded even when there are no delays.

Romito said, “I can’t say I’m surprised,” when she heard her train was canceled.

“This is bad for me,” Mike Ciaravino, a Bellmore ironworker, said as he just found out his Babylon train would be delayed. He opted to go get a bite to eat.

“Usually the Babylon branch is reliable, so it’s surprising,” he said. “I generally only have a problem if I have to take Ronkonkoma, that’s where there are always delays.” Diana Ziskin, a Great Neck resident who works in public relations, said she left work 20 minutes early to make sure she could still get home.

“I’m constantly checking the trains online,” she said. “It’s frustrating, but not surprising. This happens all the time.”

She said of the LIRR: “This is a company that makes so many mistakes. If another company made this many mistakes, they’d be out of business, but the LIRR has a monopoly on Long Island.”— With Zachary R. Dowdy

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