Phillip Eng announces LIRR Forward enhancement plan

Phillip Eng announces LIRR Forward enhancement plan
The Long Island Rail Road could be seeing some infrastructure improvements in the coming months. (Photo courtesy of the MTA)

MTA Long Island Rail Road President Phillip Eng announced a list of actions to fix reliability, cleanliness and community issues on the LIRR on Monday, in hopes of moving the railroad forward largely through improving its infrastructure.

The plan, described by the MTA as a package of “detailed specialized actions,” would feature a number of switch upgrades, inspections on track circuits, clearing more than 180 miles of overgrown vegetation, revising their communications strategy, and expanding their maintenance program.

“LIRR Forward is the first formal step in a new direction that will help us anticipate our problems before they arise, set standards on how to quickly and correctly respond to the challenges we face, to deliver what our ridership expects of us – which is safe, reliable service bolstered by timely, accurate and effective communication,” Eng said.

The plan targets 10 switches that caused nearly half of the 205 switch failures in 2017, finalizes repairs at a “critical switch” at Jamaica, “comprehensive joint inspections and upgrades” on 370 track circuits which caused more than a third of track-circuit failures and installing 60 snow switch covers two years ahead of schedule.

It also calls for installing 14 more third rail heaters to stop power failures, safety delineators at nearly 300 grade crossings, the accelerated replacement of 80 utility poles, replacing M7 door components, and focusing more on “critical tasks to harden our assets now before hurricane season and winter storms.”

Also highlighted were including car cleaning halfway through routes and boosting station cleaning by nearly a third.

Countdown clocks have also been installed at 116 stations, according to the MTA, with the last eight stations to be launched by summer. This would come on top of utilizing GPS equipment, new training for staff, and “revising our communications strategy.”

The announcement for LIRR Forward follows now former LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski outlining 60 actions they planned to take, including boosting rail inspections, more snow switch covers, countdown clocks, delineators and a slew of other infrastructure improvements.

That announcement followed a state comptroller’s report highlighting the LIRR having its worst yearly on-time performance in nearly two decades.

The exact cost and timeline for the upgrades are unclear at this time.

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