Jamaica, N.Y.—A 2007 analysis of Long Island Rail Road infrastructure sharply criticized the antiquated switch and signal system that was crippled during Monday's electrical fire. Authored by a former president of Metro North, the report claims LIRR leaders missed a key opportunity to upgrade the equipment that controls train traffic as it passes through the critical Jamaica station.
"It appears that LIRR lost several years in its signal upgrade program during the 1990's," wrote Donald Nelson, who ran Metro North from 1991 to 1999. During that time period, Nelson was able to transition his northern rail line from a tangled system where tracks had to be switched manually, to a more streamlined computerized control.
"At Metro North it was 12 years from the first field cutover of the new signal system until the entire railroad was resignalled and brought under full centralized control," Nelson continued.
Between 1990 and 2007, LIRR has gone through 5 presidents. Many of them resigned under duress, including Charles Hoppe (1990-1994), who was forced out after he spent the blizzard of 94' in Virginia, while LIRR trains were crippled in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. More recently, James Dermody (2003-2006) resigned after a series of high profile accidents involving the gap between LIRR trains and platforms.
Current LIRR President Helena Williams has made replacing aging switchs and signals a priority. The outdated lever system that was damaged in Monday's fire is slated to be replaced with a microprocessor system this Fall.