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Newsday: LIRR restores six express trains on Port Washington branch

By Alfonso A. Castillo alfonso.castillo@newsday.comalfonsoreports Updated September 28, 2022 6:50 pm

The Long Island Rail Road will restore six rush hour express trains on its Port Washington branch in response to complaints from hundreds of branch riders upset that the LIRR’s proposed East Side Access schedules would lengthen their commutes, officials said Wednesday.

LIRR interim president Catherine Rinaldi gathered with local lawmakers Wednesday at the Port Washington station to announce the changes: three morning rush and three evening rush trains that were to run local under the railroad’s proposed schedules will instead operate express — making stops at Bayside, Great Neck, Manhasset, Plandome and Port Washington.

“Express service to Penn was the number one take-away from our public hearings,” Rinaldi said. “We heard loud and clear how important this was to the community here in Port Washington."

The changes followed a major backlash from Port Washington riders, who were upset at the railroad’s plan to have all trains on the line make several new stops in Queens, extending trip times by as many as eight minutes.

Three public hearings held by the LIRR to discuss the schedules were dominated by upset Port Washington commuters, many of whom said they bought homes near the Port Washington branch because of its short commute to Manhattan.

“They came in by the hundreds to these meetings that were held. It was an overwhelming response,” said Assemb. Gina Sillitti (D-Port Washington), who, with Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills), led efforts to mobilize local commuters. “We, as elected officials, couldn’t do it on our own. The community really stepped up and said, ‘We want our trains back.’”

The new schedules will take effect in December, when the LIRR begins serving its new Manhattan station, Grand Central Madison, as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $11.2 billion East Side Access megaproject.

Stations in Queens that will now be bypassed by the express trains will be served by other trains.

The LIRR has said it could further expand service on the northern Nassau line if it was able to add train storage capacity at Port Washington. The Town of North Hempstead previously opposed such efforts, because they could result in fewer parking space for commuters. North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said Wednesday that town officials are “committed to adding additional service where we can” and would meet with the LIRR to discuss expansion.

Although the six express trains added by the LIRR are fewer than those operating now, Port Washington commuter Ian Rasmussen said he still considers the changes a victory for riders.

"The trains are going to two separate terminals, so we're getting a benefit there. We did feel that you should be able to maintain the average rush hour travel time to the city that we've always enjoyed," Rasmussen said. "The fact that there are going to be maybe one or two less trains is a lot better than having no express trains."

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