After fire, NYC rail passengers endure overcrowded commutes

AP News
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Posted: May 18, 2016 2:18 PM
After fire, NYC rail passengers endure overcrowded commutes

NEW YORK (AP) — An estimated 150,000 rail passengers had to endure overcrowded, slow commutes Wednesday, a day after a fire damaged elevated train tracks in New York City.

The Tuesday night fire at a garden center underneath Metro-North tracks in Manhattan's East Harlem section, north of Grand Central Terminal, halted train service for hours.

On Wednesday, the railroad used an abbreviated Saturday schedule and said it would continue to do so "until further notice," though it expressed hope that regular service could be restored by Friday.

It was a bad day for commuting overall in the city. Drivers from New Jersey and the northern suburbs grappled with delays of an hour or more. It's unclear how many of those drivers normally would have taken the train. A shooting in the Theater District also snarled midtown Manhattan traffic.

The intense fire damaged a center column beneath a viaduct holding the elevated tracks. Crews were installing six temporary steel columns.

Following those temporary repairs, Metro-North will perform structural tests including the impact of train movement over the viaduct. If that's successful, restricted-speed trains could resume over tracks that are currently out of service.

The damaged column is an older design with lattice-like steel; parts of it date to the initial construction of the viaduct in the 19th century. Newer columns on the viaduct were not damaged, the railroad said.

Commuters were warned to expect delays and crowds, and they were urged to work from home or find alternate travel plans.

Most seemed to take the inconvenience in stride.

"I had to stand the whole time. I was only delayed like 30 minutes," said Mike Joshi, who got on at Southport, Connecticut, headed to New York for his teaching job in Brooklyn.

A train that left White Plains at 6:30 a.m. was so crowded that by the time it traveled seven stops, to Mount Vernon, no one could get on. The conductor announced that another train behind would make all local stops. The passengers included many teens on their way to school.