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LIRR: Power line problem shouldn't affect morning commute

Commuters at the Mineola train station hear the

Commuters at the Mineola train station hear the announcement of an LIRR suspension due to a downed power line Monday evening. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Power lines that fell on Long Island Rail Road tracks in Hicksville Monday suspended service during the evening rush on three branches, and two of the branches remained suspended for several hours more as crews struggled to remove the line and repair track damage, officials said.

Late Monday, the LIRR said Tuesday's morning rush shouldn’t be affected by the power line problem but riders were urged to check for alerts of service interruptions on all branches. Earlier, LIRR officials said they were still assessing the track and signal damage caused by the lines.

The LIRR said at about 9:30 p.m. that PSEG crews had "secured and removed" the fallen power lines and service had been restored between Mineola and Hicksville. Eastbound trains started running to Huntington as of 9:42 p.m. and to Ronkonkoma as of 10:15 p.m.

The Ronkonkoma and Huntington/Port Jefferson branches were down throughout Monday's evening rush hour, although the Oyster Bay branch was restored as of 8 p.m. The LIRR had said after 8 p.m. Monday that service from Penn Station to Mineola has been restored. 

There were systemwide delays averaging 30 to 40 minutes through Monday evening.

The LIRR tweeted about 8:30 p.m. that "limited shuttle train service between Babylon and Hicksville" was available "via the Central Branch. Customers can transfer at Hicksville for limited eastbound service to Huntington/Port Jefferson and Ronkonkoma."

PSEG spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said a ground wire fell onto the tracks at about 6 p.m. Monday, just west of the Hicksville LIRR station. She said technicians and a specialty crew was dispatched. 

Keith Riley of Greenlawn took the delay in stride, calmly waiting for the next eastbound train as a loudspeaker at the LIRR’s Mineola station repeated what he had been hearing for 45 minutes: his train had been suspended.

“You get used to it,” he said, adding that hundreds of people, cars and cabs choked the slim street running along the station. “And it doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon.”

Monica Williams of Westbury said she left her job at the Brooklyn Library at 5:30 but was told of the suspension at about 6:30 while at a crowded Jamaica station. 

A 90-minute commute turned into one that took twice as long as she waited in the Mineola platform for her husband to arrive. “They really didn’t tell you what was going on,” she said at 8 p.m. “It’s been crazy. But when they said a train was going to Mineola, I got on because at least that was much closer to home than Jamaica.”

Downed PSEG power lines and utility poles have been known to cause major problems for the LIRR, including last Thanksgiving, when a downed wire in Valley Stream caused 209 train delays. 

As part of his LIRR Forward service improvement initiative, LIRR president Phillip Eng last year directed the railroad to work closely with PSEG to replace and harden electrical utility infrastructure near tracks to prevent incidents such as this one.  

Eighty utility poles were replaced in 2018, and another 108 were in line to be replaced in 2019, according to the railroad. Eng said in January that the railroad and PSEG have also been “seeking new opportunities to prioritize and address our long-standing issue” with overhead electrical wires, including by using drones and helicopters to inspect them. 

Eng said in January that the “enhanced partnership with PSEG has proved a great success.” 

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