Long Island rally pushes for a 'sane commute'

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Marcus Solis reporting (Photo/@painonthetrain via Twitter)

Long Island Rail Road riders rallied Saturday for a better commute after another week of delays and nightmare crowds at Penn Station.

"You have endured enough, it's time to make your voice heard. Please come out tomorrow RAIN OR SHINE," said a tweet from state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-9th Dist.) announcing the rally.

A small group attended the Rally for a Sane Commute began at 10 a.m. across from Rockville Centre train station, in parking field 27.

On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for a private operator to take over Penn in Midtown, the nation's busiest rail station, where recent derailments and other problems have hampered commuters.

In a letter to Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman, the governors said, "the situation at Penn Station has gone from bad to worse to intolerable" and "drastic action must be taken to immediately remedy the situation."

Two derailments in the last several weeks, a power failure, signal problems and other issues at Penn Station have pushed Amtrak to begin replacing aging tracks and other equipment at the station, a critical part of Northeast Corridor travel.

On Friday, a man fell onto the tracks at Penn, causing a series of delays and cancellations for LIRR service. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Amtrak's replacement of tracks and other equipment, much of which dates to the 1970s, initially was scheduled to be completed over a two- or three-year period, mainly during off hours. But the recent problems prompted Amtrak to speed up that timetable and it plans to begin work this summer.

Amtrak released a statement early Friday morning addressing the governors' letter.

"We agree with the Governors that dramatic action is required at Penn Station," the statement said, "and that's why Amtrak is advancing our renewal plan as well as the creation of a new entity to unify management of the station concourses and leverage the expertise of the private sector with experience in running complex passenger facilities."

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