Category Archives: Long Island Railroad

East Coast railroads prep for Hurricane Joaquin

Railroads, transit agencies and local governments along the East Coast have begun prepping for heavy rains resulting from Hurricane Joaquin, which is expected to move northward through the Atlantic Ocean over the coming days.

Yesterday, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials announced preparatory measures being taken across New York City’s subway system, including filling sandbags, preparing and distributing generators, ensuring vehicles are fueled, and scheduling staff members.

If the storm continues toward New York City, the MTA can deploy covers for the 540 openings into the subway system in Lower Manhattan, agency officials said in a news release.

Additionally, MTA crews have installed large sand bags at the Coney Island Yard.

The agency’s two commuter railroads — Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad — are monitoring electrical grids and substations “with heightened awareness,” agency officials said.

“It is too early to say whether the railroads would need to suspend service if a powerful storm strikes our region,” MTA officials said. “If flooding is predicted, the railroads would move trains away from low-lying storage areas

Meanwhile, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also announced that it had begun severe weather preparations, including positioning nearly 4 miles of flood barriers to protect transportation facilities. Additionally, the port is ready to deploy 170 generators and pumps to ensure service continues.

At the same time, Norfolk Southern Railway yesterday issued a service alert to customers about potential service disruptions.

“Weather advisories have been issued reporting potential heavy rainfall and widespread flooding in many low lying areas throughout the East Coast,” NS officials said in the service alert. “Norfolk Southern will monitor operations closely and take every precaution to protect shipments that may be affected in these areas.”

Schumer wants $550M Sandy funds handed over to Amtrak

US Sen. Charles Schumer is asking the feds to hand over $550 million in yet-unclaimed Sandy-relief funds to Amtrak so the agency can make direly needed repairs to the beleaguered East River rail tunnels.

Amtrak had hoped to collect several hundred million dollars needed for the repairs from insurance policies it had in place during the 2012 superstorm. But US District Judge Jed Rakoff last
month capped the amount that Amtrak can collect at $125 million instead of the $700 million it said it needed.


Amtrak plans to appeal the ruling, but that could take years and it needs to move on the repairs now, Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement Monday.

He wants the feds to take money from the massive kitty it set aside for superstorm-related damage and give it to Amtrak.

“The repair of the East River tunnels — which is the vital link for [Long Island Rail Road] commuters, as well as for Amtrak and NJ Transit — simply cannot wait for an Amtrak insurance appeal process to arrive,” he said. “This project is too important to our regional economy and to hundreds of thousands of commuters. Any delay in this project will not only mean more
disruptions in these critical tunnels but could also delay East Side access, countless commuters, and potentially stall a critical national priority.”

Schumer is asking Amtrak to sign a letter promising to pay back to the federal government any additional money it gets from insurance years down the line.

Amtrak owns the four East River tunnels. It uses them for its Northeast Corridor service. It also shares them with the MTA, which uses them for its LIRR service, and New Jersey Transit, which uses them to access a rail yard in Sunnyside, Queens.

The superstorm left the tunnels inundated with salt water, causing the already antiquated passageways to rapidly deteriorate.

Schumer is also working with Gov. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Christie to get funds to rebuild the Hudson River rail tunnels, which were also seriously damaged during Superstorm Sandy and have suffered several cable failures in recent months, often causing major commute delays.

What’s the Actual Cost of Amtrak’s Trans-Hudson Gateway Project?

Five years after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spiked the ARC transit tunnel to redirect money to roads, politicians are finally discussing how to go about upgrading rail capacity between Jersey and Midtown Manhattan, currently limited to a pair of century-old tunnels under the Hudson River. But just about every announcement related to the proposed Gateway Project comes with a different price tag.

[E]ach time Gateway is the news, there usually seems to be a fresh cost escalation. Is it a $10 billion project? A $14 billion project? A $16 billion project? Or a $25 billion project? And what is included exactly? Amtrak does not make it clear what the various items are and how much they cost; I have not seen a single cost estimate that attempts to establish a baseline for new Hudson tunnels without the Penn Station South component, which would provide a moderate short-term boost to capacity but is not necessary for the project. The articles I’ve seen do not explain the origin of the $25 billion figure, either; it may include the tunnel and full four-tracking of Newark-New York, or it may include additional scope, for example Amtrak’s planned vertical circulation for a future (unnecessary) deep cavern for high-speed rail (see picture here).

Against this background, we see scare stories that Gateway must be built for reasons other than capacity and ridership. The old tunnels are falling apart, and Amtrak would like to shut them down one track at the time for long-term repairs. The more mundane reality is that the tunnels have higher maintenance costs than Amtrak would like since each track can only be shut down for short periods, on weekends and at night. This is buried in technical documents that don’t give the full picture, and don’t give differential costs for continuing the present regime of weekend single-tracking versus the recommended long-term closures. The given cost for Sandy-related North River Tunnel repairs is $350 million, assuming long-term closures, and it’s unlikely the present regime is billions of dollars more expensive.


Where Is Typical Long Island? Great Neck?

Since we promote a WebSite on the Long Island Railroad, we are always interested in promoting Long Island. Then we found an old picture of downtown Great Neck. The railroad station is near here on Middle Neck Road and Station Plaza at Great Neck Road, 1/4 mile North of Route 25A.

Great Neck is a region on Long Island that covers a peninsula on the North Shore of Long Island, which includes the villages of Great Neck, Great Neck Estates, Great Neck Plaza, and others, as well as an area south of the peninsula near Lake Success and the border territory of Queens. The incorporated village of Great Neck had a population of 9,989 at the 2010 census, while the larger Great Neck area comprises a residential community of some 40,000 people in nine villages and hamlets in the town of North Hempstead, of which Great Neck is the northwestern quadrant.

It is, like much of Long Island, a “bedroom community” for people who work in New York. So they very much depend on the railroad. Not a huge comlmute. Only 15.7 miles to Penn Station.

Schumer protects funding for East Side Access, 2nd Ave. subway

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he had stopped a Republican proposal in Congress that would have stopped work on the East Side Access project and the Second Avenue subway.

The U.S. House of Representatives proposal would have cut funding on the East Side Access by 47 percent and reduced money for the Second Avenue subway by 21 percent, Schumer said.

Schumer fought against the proposed cuts in a congressional conference and managed to restore the funding to make sure work continues on both projects.

“East Side Access is a transformative infrastructure project that employs thousands of New Yorkers and will shave off commute times for tens of thousands of commuters from Long Island,” Schumer said. “While the cuts passed in the House put the project on life support, I am pleased that we were able to beat back these cuts and keep the project moving forward.”

The East Side Access will bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal and the Second Avenue subway will relieve critical crowding on the Lexington Avenue line, which carries 40 percent of all subway passengers in New York City.

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

Angry subway riders rip Cuomo over miserable commutes

Angry subway riders ripped Gov. Cuomo on Sunday March 15, 2015 for what they called deteriorating transit service — and even made posters about their miserable commutes while calling for more funding for the MTA.

The advocacy group Riders Alliance collected stories about riders’ commutes from hell at the Atlantic Avenue- Barclays Center station in Brooklyn to share with Cuomo and the state legislature in Albany.

The group said it has seen a major increase in complaints from its members about service problems in recent weeks.

“The subway service has been atrocious recently, and people get frustrated with the MTA,” said Alliance Executive Director John Raskin. “People need to take their frustrations to Gov. Cuomo and the state legislature.”

“Lately, it’s been worse and worse,” she said. “One day, it was a 35-minute bus ride to go 1 mile. Then you get to the F train, and it’s like the sardines.”

Straphangers have also been taking to Twitter to rip Cuomo about the transit system.

“I look at this wall every time I wait for the subway in Brooklyn and think #thankscuomo,” tweeted Joanna Oltman Smith about her run-down Park Slope station. “@RidersNY.”

The MTA is facing a $15 billion deficit in its upcoming capital plan, which funds big projects such as the Second Avenue subway and bringing the LIRR to Grand Central.

The MTA said full funding of its upcoming capital plan would help them strengthen and grow the transit system.

Cuomo oversees the agency, and he and the legislature approve funding for it.

“As subway ridership continues to grow past 6 million a day, fully funding the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Program will let us renew, enhance and expand the MTA network,” the agency said in a statement.

News From New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)

MTA Metro-North Railroad resumed full service on the Harlem Line this morning for the first time since Tuesday night’s deadly collision between a passenger train and a sports utility vehicle (SUV) in Westchester County, N.Y., near Valhalla Station.

The Harlem Line train left Grand Central Terminal at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday and later approached the SUV, which had stopped on the track at a grade crossing. The train struck the vehicle, causing an explosion and fire that consumed the vehicle and the train’s first car. The third rail of the track came up due to the explosion and pierced the first car. Six people died, including the SUV driver.

The incident, which had forced Metro-North to suspend service between Pleasantville and North White Plains while investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the scene, is being described as the worst crash in Metro-North’s history.

In December 2013, a Metro-North train derailed near Spuyten Duyvil Station in the Bronx, causing four passenger fatalities and 61 injuries. At the time, it was the deadliest train accident in New York City since 1991 and the first Metro-North accident that resulted in deaths.

Between May 2013 and March 2014, Metro-North experienced five accidents that caused six fatalities and 126 injuries, prompting the NTSB to launch a special investigation.

“[The] tragic collision of an SUV and a Metro-North commuter train highlights the critical need for all drivers to use caution at every highway-rail grade crossing,” said Operation Lifesaver President Joyce Rose in a prepared statement, noting that in the United States, a vehicle or person is hit by a train every three hours. “This incident illustrates all too well the devastating results that vehicle-train crashes at highway-rail grade crossings can have on families and communities throughout the United States.”


U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling on Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast to “quickly” begin sleep disorder-testing of Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) engineers.

Schumer stated late last week that MTA should not wait for a deadly accident before implementing a program to test engineers for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. While MTA developed such a program for its New York City Transit train operators after a light-rail accident in Boston in 2008, and for its Metro-North Railroad engineers after a fatal accident in December 2013, MTA has not yet developed a comparable testing plan for LIRR, Schumer said in a press release.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration require all railroads to screen for and treat sleep apnea more than a decade ago, the senator noted.

“There should be no delay in starting a pilot program for testing LIRR engineers who may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, which could put thousands of daily commuters at risk if undetected,” Schumer said. He made his request in a letter sent to Prendergast last week.

The senator praised Metro-North for moving forward with its plan to screen 410 engineers and undergo an initial screening for sleep apnea. Engineers recommended for additional screening will undergo more testing, and if needed, will be referred to sleep specialists for additional treatment.


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) awarded a $404.8 million contract for the construction of the future Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) concourse at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

The contract was awarded to GCT Constructors JV, a joint venture between Schiavone Construction Co. and John P. Picone Inc. The contract, which with options could increase to $428.9 million, was granted after competitive bids were received from nine other firms.

Funding for the contract will come from a federal grant and local funds, MTA officials said in a press release.

Under the contract, workers will build the architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical facilities, and escalators and elevators that will comprise LIRR’s future 375,000-square-foot passenger train concourse and related ventilation plants at 44th and 50th Streets.

Work in the concourse will include the construction of 17 deep escalators at 45th, 46th, 47th and 48th streets, and the installation of elevators connecting the LIRR passenger concourse to the station caverns 140 feet below Park Avenue.

The contract includes major civil work to create passenger connections from the new LIRR concourse up to Grand Central’s Lower Level Dining Concourse, Grand Central’s Biltmore Room on the Upper Level, the 47th Street Cross Passageway and 45th Street cross passageway.