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LIRR back on track two days after blizzard

(The following story by Christine Armario appeared on the Newsday website on February 14.)

NEW YORK -- The Long Island Rail Road was back on track Tuesday after the weekend blizzard stranded some commuters, delayed others for hours and left many so frustrated Monday morning they turned around and just went home.

With all service restored for Tuesday's morning rush hour, Joe Porcaro, 58, of Ronkonkoma, said, "it was as if nothing had every happened."

It couldn't have been more different than his journey to Penn Station on Monday, which took an extra two hours.

"With three days notice of this pending big storm, they should have taken precautions or gotten there a bit faster," Porcaro said Tuesday.

The LIRR is analyzing its response to the storm, said Brian Dolan, a spokesman for the railroad.

On Sunday, the blizzard disabled eight trains, leaving riders stranded for up to five hours. Three others were stuck for shorter times on Monday.

In addition to the delays, the entire Hempstead and Port Washington branches were closed, the first coming back in to service early Monday and the second not until after 2 p.m. the same day.

Throughout the years, the railroad has identified "problem areas," where snow drifts on the electrified third rail can halt a train in its tracks. But troubles occurred at new locations, Dolan said, especially west of Jamaica. Usually, the snow falls heavier on eastern Long Island.

The LIRR's two rotary snow brooms were key to combating the snow drifts on the third rail that disabled the eight LIRR trains Sunday and Monday. A third snow broom had been ordered before the blizzard hit, and the railroad's analysis could conclude if more equipment is needed.

"Admittedly, it's not a problem that is 100 percent solvable," said Jim McGovern, a Metropolitan Transit Authority board member. "But if they've only got two of those [snow broom] machines for 701 miles of tracks, they may want to think about buying another one."

It took longer to get the snow-fighting equipment to the Hempstead and Port Washington lines because the LIRR targeted the main New York lines first, Dolan said. He added that the LIRR begins preparing for snow in the fall, holding management meetings and testing equipment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

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