Christophe Mazuel makes a phone call while lying on the floor in New York's Penn Station after his train to Southampton was canceled, Monday, Aug. 23, 2010. A fire in a switching tower near the Long Island Rail Road's Jamaica station has halted all eastbound and westbound service on 10 of the railroad's 11 branches. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
If you intend to take the Long Island Rail Road into the city to watch the marathon or do anything at all (or if you want to ride it the heck out of here), you may want to come up with another option.
Once again, the Long Island Rail Road is offering limited service into Manhattan this weekend because of an overhaul at a track hub in Queens -- and even if you plan ahead, the trek could be painful.
The nation's busiest commuter railroad says it is running only three trains an hour between Jamaica Station and Pennsylvania Station. Normally it runs nine. Buses will replace trains between Mineola and Jamaica stations. There will be no LIRR service to or from Brooklyn. By Saturday morning, travelers were already feeling the crunch.
"Everything was supposed to be on time and the first train wasn't there so I'm already running an hour late," said Barbara Bottheo, as she waited for a train to Babylon.
The Long Island Railroad is finishing up modernizing the signal system at its hub in Jamaica, Queens. So the number of trains coming into Penn Station are limited and crowded. Similar limitations in service occurred Oct. 23-24, but this weekend is different.
The slowdown coincides with the annual running of the New York City Marathon, which means marathon runners who planned to take the railroad should think twice before relying on that mode of transport to get them to the big race. Unfortunately for marathon runners and fans, a spokeserson for the LIRR said it couldn't pick a different weekend to make the repairs.
Spectators and runners set on using the LIRR are advised to take the Port Washington, Babylon or Long Beach branches to avoid busing or subway transfers to New York. The Port Washington Branch is the only line completely unaffected.
That small fact provided consolation to some.
"I wouldn't have come to visit relatives if that branch were affected," said Jim Demopoulous, who traveled from Pennsylvania.
But many stops in Brooklyn, including the Atlantic Center hub, and Queens won't be operating at all. That's why the best advice is to take the LIRR for essential business travel only.
For Diane Lifanti, of Washington Heights, she didn't really have an option.
"It's my mom's birthday, that's why I have to go onto Long Island today," she said.
Fortunately, Lifanti found another route and averted the LIRR delays -- wouldn't want those birthday flowers to wilt on the way.
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