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LIRR: Aging electrical wire caused commuter meltdown

Long Island Rail Road officials said trains were

Long Island Rail Road officials said trains were running mostly on time Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, a day after a signal failure stranded tens of thousands of commuters during the morning rush hour. Above, a sign at the Jamaica station on Thursday. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

An aging electrical wire that caused Wednesday's LIRR morning rush-hour meltdown should be repaired in time for the Friday morning commute, the railroad's president said Thursday.

An "open line wire" strung up on a pole between the LIRR's Woodside station and its Harold Interlocking in Long Island City inexplicably failed, causing the Long Island Rail Road's signal system just outside the tunnels leading into Penn Station to lose their power, LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said.

"I know that's where the fault is ... We should have it replaced by tomorrow morning," Nowakowski said in an interview at his Jamaica office. "We don't know exactly, yet, what was wrong with it. We're just going to go up there and replace the wire."

Nowakowski noted that the wires "look pretty sick" and "probably are a hundred years old."

Although the railroad has pinpointed the location of the electrical problem, Nowakowski said it still does not know why it failed, and why a backup system that should have kicked in did not. Until the railroad gets those answers, Nowakowski indicated the it was still vulnerable to a recurrence.

"I am never satisfied that I've fixed the problem until I can be absolutely certain that I did," Nowakowski said.

LIRR officials said the Thursday morning commute went smoothly on the railroad, which has been operating on a normal schedule since making temporary repairs Wednesday afternoon. Nowakowski said he remains confident that the quick fix, which involves routing electricity around the trouble spot and into the signal system, will hold up until the permanent repairs are made. He did not provide a time frame for the repairs.


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