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LIMBA Helena Williams LIRR Pres- Sponsored by GPI

October 5, 2012 @ 12:00 am EDT


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Long Island Rail Road president, Helena Williams was our speaker this morning. Ms Williams comes to report on railroad issues almost every year. The LIRR is a very large commuter rail system and there is usually something to report.


We began today with the second track from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma. The preliminary plans have been completed and build out has begun. This is an important link that will improve service and is expected increase ridership. Fortunately when the electrical system was originally laid in the ground it was built robust enough to handle the additional service. Now they merely tap into what is currently there.


Ms. Williams said that the better service would probably include a Bus Rapid Transit link connecting Farmingdale station to Huntington.


East Side Access is several years away, but there is a serious commitment to completing that link. That work is very complicated inasmuch as three working rail systems have to operate while the work is being done. Construction on the Queens side has to work with soft dirt. This requires special equipment and the work is dangerous. Drilling through granite in the bowels of Manhattan is actually easier and safer because the granite is self-supporting. I believe the new goal is 2019 completion.


The topic then turned to Penn Station. Helena brought a couple of pictures of the original station before real estate interests decided destroy it and build Madison Square Garden. The original structure was magnificent. (Fortunately Jackie Onassis was around to save Grand Central Station from the same fate).


Ms. Williams wants to restore some of the greatness that was the original structure. I asked if that was even possible, and Williams said that there are ways of making the station more spacious and having access to daylight streaming into the station. The task of doing that would be large and expensive. In the meantime there are ways of making the station more user friendly. Signage for ease of navigating the station is among the small interim changes that could be made. Among the final thoughts on Penn Station was that this newly renovated station could be the hub of a much greater development effort.


Lastly we discussed train safety and the use of modern signal systems. Positive Train Control otherwise referred to as PTC. PTC is a very effective train safety system. It is also very expensive. This self-monitoring system will override the human operator if he fails to execute an avoidance maneuver. Over time it will be installed.