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On The Right Track

Commuter Mary Anne Svetter of Williston Park was pleased to hear U.S. Senator Charles Schumer pushed Amtrak to enforce major changes in the way it maintains and repairs the East River tunnels. At the Long Island Rail Road station in

Mineola on Monday, Nov. 18, Svetter was waiting for her train to go to New York City’s Penn Station.


“Hopefully when these changes take effect my relatives from out of state will benefit from it,” she said.


Four Amtrak tunnels are used by LIRR trains traveling to and from Penn Station. Schumer said Monday in Mineola that he met with Amtrak Board Chairman Anthony Coscia in September to discuss issues.


“They have to live up to their responsibility to 300,000 Long Island commuters and keep the tunnels working much better,” Schumer said.


The plan includes Amtrak overhauling the existing track inspection program, replacing all “jointed rail” segments prone to failure, and implementing a new fix it first policy that will prioritize upgrading all aspects of the aging infrastructure before it breaks down, according to Schumer.  The goal of this program, Schumer says, is to bring the tunnel infrastructure into a state of repair within the next 3-5 years.


A portion of the expenses would be covered by $86 million in Hurricane Sandy relief funds alloted to Amtrak. The agency will kick in the rest.


“We provided Amtrak with [Sandy relief] and much of the money from that work would come from that pot,” said Schumer.


Mark Epstein, chairman of the Long Island Commuter Council said the biggest issue between Amtrak and commuters is communication.


“We want direct communication with Amtrak,” he said. “We don’t want it filtered anymore. As far as with riders, they need to know what’s happening when they need to know. I believe there is an effort to get things done.”


Epstein stated that future meetings with Amtrak are planned.