JAMAICA and VALLEY STREAM, NY (WPIX)—Long Island commuters are going to have to deal with more frustration for days as rail workers struggle to repair fried cables damaged by an electrical fire just east of the LIRR's Jamaica Station.
The charred signal and switching cables mean the LIRR, the nation's largest commuter rail system, will operate at about 60 percent of its capacity for Tuesday evening's rush hour. The Long Island Railroad operated at approximately 75 percent Tuesday morning.
Ten of the commuter railroad's 11 lines have significant Manhattan-bound delays. Only the Port Washington line is spared because it does not run through Jamaica.
"We're an older infrastructure. We know that we need infrastructure renewal," admitted LIRR President Helena Williams.
The fire is still under investigation, but Williams suggested the flames were caused by errant electricity that arced through rain soaked soil and ignited cables next to the third rail. The flames then spread from those ground cables into a signal tower that handles most of the train traffic that funnels into Jamaica Station.
"We don't think this problem could have been prevented, but I will note the system dates back to the 1920s and 30s," Williams said, adding, "The cabling that was involved with the arcing was less than 10 years old. "
The LIRR transports about 265,000 commuters each day.
One of them, Matt DeFelice, had positive things to say to PIX 11 News about his train service as a train pulled in to the Valley Stream Station during Tuesday morning's rush hour. "It's on time," he said. "I'm impressed." His attitude changed fast, however, as the Penn Station-bound train entered the station and kept on going, without making a stop.
"It's not on time," DeFelice said as he watched the train that he expected to be local run express instead. He and other passengers expressed frustration not only at Tuesday's erratic schedule and Monday's shutdown, but also at the railroad's aging infrastructure. "We're dealing with a system that's impossible," another Valley Stream passenger told PIX 11 News.
Hundreds of passengers traveled to Valley Stream Station by bus during the Tuesday morning commute because the LIRR line between that station and West Hempstead was not in operation, and will continue to be out of service for Tuesday evening's commute.
Other Tuesday evening service is also limited. The schedule mirrors Monday's exasperating evening rush, and customers are advised to expect canceled trains and no scheduled connections at Jamaica Station. Further Tuesday evening rush details:
- Customers headed to Oyster Bay should travel to Mineola for their connections.
- Ticket holders who want to go to West Hempstead should go to Valley Stream, where buses will be available to take them to their home stations.
- Travelers headed to Patchogue, Speonk and Montauk can connect to their trains at the Babylon station.