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For LIRR riders, detour signs point to Penn Station's future

Long Island Rail Road commuters walk past the

Long Island Rail Road commuters walk past the recently closed staircase that connects the LIRR to the downtown C and E subway and also serves as an exit to the southwest corner of 33rd Street and Eight Avenue on March 10, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Long Island Rail Road riders must wait until next year to use a staircase to the West Concourse at Penn Station in Manhattan, but until then they have new signs -- and a live person -- to direct them to a detour and help ease their commute.

The well-lighted signage, along with new flat-screen TVs announcing LIRR schedules and subway conditions, has been installed below 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue. An LIRR employee has been stationed near a new timetable rack with train schedules at the recently closed staircase to answer commuter questions. Besides offering directions and an apology for the inconvenience, the large signs promise an improved staircase. After reading the detour signs, Mark Madison of Baldwin said: "It's OK now that I know what is going on. I'm an easygoing guy and I don't mind walking the extra steps."

Now, riders who exit tracks 13 to 21 walk down an existing ramp and loop around onto another subway staircase before merging with A and C subway riders.

The staircase still leads up to the intersection of 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue, but riders now exit across the street.

"It's OK," said Peter Ruffner, of Seaford. "The problem is during rush hour when you have street-level traffic using the same staircase with the subway riders. There's congestion, but like everything else in life I'll get used to it."

The staircase is being redone as part of the multimillion-dollar Moynihan Project, which will convert the historic Farley Post Office into an Amtrak station that will connect to Penn Station.

When completed, the new staircase will exit onto the Moynihan Station Plaza that faces Eighth Avenue.

The new plaza exit will lessen congestion on the pedestrian sidewalk, Chris Valens, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said Monday.

To accommodate more commuters, the new staircase will be 15 feet wide, as opposed to the current 5 feet, and have two new exits and entrances for A and C subway riders and LIRR commuters.

"We expect the new staircase to open in the first quarter of 2015," Valens said.

Construction crews are in the first phase of the Moynihan Station project. It includes expansion of the West End Concourse to allow access to Penn Station tracks.

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