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‘Near-Normal’ Commute Finally Expected, Over 24 Hours After LIRR Derailment

Track Work Expected To Be Completed Overnight

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – At long last, a “near-normal” commute was expected Wednesday, in the wake of a derailment that damaged tracks and switches.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Wednesday night that LIRR customers should anticipate a “near-normal rush hour” Wednesday morning, following the “expected completion” of repairs.

Earlier Tuesday night, the LIRR said repairs to the tracks and switches that were damaged in the derailment were “progressing rapidly.”

The derailment happened on Monday afternoon. For the evening rush Tuesday, the LIRR canceled 21 out of 130 trains that normally originate at Penn Station.

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported Tuesday night, commuters said the evening commute at Penn Station was a gamble. Steve Orlando said he lucked out and made it home on Monday, but as for getting home Tuesday, all he could say was, “Fingers crossed.”

Added Rockville Centre resident Michelle Sabatiele: “It’s very frustrating. It’s becoming more and more often that there’s complications on the Long Island Rail Road.”

The two cars that were damaged during Monday’s derailment had long since been removed Tuesday night, but repairs continued on 500 feet of damaged track and eight switches. Thus, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said, cancellations were necessary.

“About 500 feet of tracks and eight switches damaged in the derailment, and Amtrak crews are working diligently now to make those repairs,” said LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone.

The damage was inside one of four East river tunnels owned by Amtrak.

Two cars of a 10-car LIRR train headed to Hempstead derailed just after 6 p.m. Monday as it was entering one of the four East River tunnels. About 1,000 passengers were trapped on the train.

One of the riders snapped a picture showing a tilted, derailed car with passengers inside. Riders said it felt like an earthquake.

Some passengers had to wait three hours to be evacuated, while Penn Station swelled with commuters due to cancellations on all lines.

Jill Augustine of Garden City was among those who were stranded on the train.

“You had cops, you had the Fire Department — they had water,” she said. “All the passengers were calm. It was just annoying to sit there for three hours.”

The service disruptions kept many routine commuters away from Penn Station on Tuesday.

“A lot of people gave up today,” said Moris Mostafiz of Hewlett. “They didn’t come back.”

Most hoped to return Wednesday with service back to normal.

“It’s horrible. It’s horrible. Everybody’s rushing around. They don’t know what’s going on,” said Stacey Thompson of Levittown. “It’s like cattle. Everybody’s rushing for the train pushing. The worst comes out of people when this stuff happens.”

Meanwhile, the LIRR is looking at the possibility that a malfunctioning switch may have contributed to the derailment, Calderone told 1010 WINS.

An inside look of a Long Island Rail Road train that derailed at Penn Station Monday.  (CBS 2)

An inside look of a Long Island Rail Road train that derailed at Penn Station Monday. (CBS 2)

To make the ride a bit smoother, NYC Transit is cross honoring LIRR tickets on the No. 2, 3, 7 and E subway lines.

CHECK: Traffic & Transit | Listen: 1010 WINS | WCBS 880

The cause of the derailment was under investigation by Amtrak, LIRR, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Numerous other incidents have impacted MTA riders in recent weeks.

In late May, a No. 1 subway train derailed as it headed into a tunnel just south of 125th Street. Passengers were stuck for more than an hour until a rescue train arrived.

Just over a month ago, both Metro-North and Amtrak suspended service between Grand Central and New Haven after a Metro-North train jumped the tracks and sideswiped a passing train, injuring about 60 riders.

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