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LIRR’s plan for Penn outages expected Monday, MTA official says

A Long Island Rail Road train is pictured

A Long Island Rail Road train is pictured in file photo. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

The Long Island Rail Road is expected Monday to release its plan to deal with service disruptions forced by Amtrak’s summer infrastructure renewal work at Penn Station — more than a month after officials first predicted it would come out, a key MTA official said.

The plan comes as frustration mounts among commuters and advocates about the lack of information about what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has called “the summer of hell.”

But Mitchell Pally, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board’s Suffolk County representative, defended the LIRR over the timing of the release, saying the agency needed the extra time to make sure it got it right.

Amtrak, which owns and operates Penn, announced the summer renewal effort following several major service disruptions caused by infrastructure problems at the nation’s busiest rail hub, including separate track defects that caused two train derailments in 10 days.

Amtrak officials initially predicted the plan for the service disruptions would come out more than a month ago.

The LIRR later said it would put out its plan by June 1. After that date came and went, the railroad earlier this week said it was finalizing its plan, but did not say when one would be released.

Meanwhile, Amtrak and NJ Transit, which will both also be affected by the Penn infrastructure renewal work, put out their plans to run fewer trains into and out of the station last month.

But Pally said drawing comparisons to the other railroads is unfair because the LIRR’s task is “much more complex” — involving the creation of entirely new transportation alternatives to and from Manhattan, including ferries and buses running to and from designated locations throughout Long Island.

“It takes time to do it right. I understand people’s impatience and frustration . . . But I think, in the context of what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s the right way to do it,” said Pally, of Stony Brook. “The worst thing we could do is put something out and then have to change it.”

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan on Friday declined to comment on the plan, referring back to his statement from Tuesday in which he said the agency’s “top priority during Amtrak’s Penn Station construction work this summer is to ensure that LIRR riders are minimally impacted.”

Mark Epstein, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council — the railroad’s official watchdog group — said, with less than a month before the service reductions are set to begin on July 10, details on what to expect can’t come soon enough for both riders and employers who need to plan ahead.

“The most important thing for the riders is information. And it can’t be held back any longer,” Epstein said. “We are a few weeks away from the implementation of a plan we know nothing about.”

Even if the LIRR still has to figure out some details, Epstein urged the agency to tell riders what it knows already, including information on which trains will be canceled or otherwise affected.

The work, as scheduled, is supposed to be completed before Labor Day.


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