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LIRR plans major weekend shutdowns on Jamaica lines

LIRR plans major weekend shutdowns on Jamaica lines
Long Island Rail Road employees work on the train tracks at the Jamaica station last month after switching equipment caught fire at the Queens hub. As a result of the fire, the LIRR has planned to install new signal systems during two upcoming weekends. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
By Philip Newman

The Long Island Rail Road has advice for Jamaica-bound commuters on two forthcoming weekends: Take the E train.

But the railroad suggests it might be wise to avoid the LIRR altogether.

The LIRR advises riders to add 70 minutes to trips Oct. 23-24 and Nov. 6-7, during which many stations will have no train or bus service at all.

In fact, LIRR officials suggested you try not take the railroad at all on those weekends.

It is all in the name of replacement of ancient switching equipment, some of which caught fire last month and brought severe service disruptions to Jamaica.

“Only customers traveling for essential business (such as police and fire first responders) or employees with no other alternatives should use the LIRR during these two weekends,” the LIRR said. “Customers traveling for recreational purposes should consider travel on the Port Washington branch or other alternatives”

During the two weekends, many customers will need to take the subway between Jamaica and Penn Station, the LIRR advised.

The new signal system will bring state-of-the-art, computerized microprocessor technology to Jamaica’s critical switching area and centralize the switching and signal control from three existing signal towers at Jamaica, including Hall Tower where the switching board was damaged by a major fire last month.

The damage brought trains to a screeching halt Aug. 23 as crews worked around the clock to restore service. For a full week 10 out of the 11 LIRR lines were running on limited service between their destinations and Manhattan.

“This project will help us get ready for the future and continue our ongoing effort to modernize the LIRR’s most critical signal and switching systems,” said LIRR President Helena Williams. “Last month’s fire underscored the need for this upgrade and we ask for customers’ patience during these two weekends. The work will help ensure reliability of train service going forward.”

The disruption will bring:

• only three trains per hour between Jamaica and Penn Station

• no LIRR train service between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn

• buses to replace LIRR trains between Mineola and Jamaica on the Huntington, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma — overnight only — and Oyster Bay branches.

• buses to replace LIRR trains between Queens Village and Jamaica on the Hempstead branch

• a reduction in weekend service to the Babylon and Huntington branches from half-hourly to hourly

• a rerouting of most Ronkonkoma trains along the Babylon branch for parts of trips

• no LIRR or bus service to or from Atlantic Terminal, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Hollis, Locust Manor, Laurelton, Rosedale, Merillon Avenue, New Hyde Park, St. Albans, Nostrand Avenue and East New York

The switching equipment installation replaces 1910 electro-mechanical machines and are expected to help reduce delays and provide quicker recovery from power surges, LIRR officials said.

The $56 million project will be paid for the MTA Capital Projects Program.

Information on the two weekend disruptions will be available on mta.info, customer e-mails, train brochures, letters to elected officials, highway signs, station posters, electronic message boards at Jamaica and Penn stations, public address system announcements, radio and newspaper ads, on-train announcements and internally produced video to be used on the LIRR website and Penn Station and Jamaica monitors, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at [email protected] or phone at 718-260-4536.

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