In the early 1990’s, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority & Long Island Rail Road conducted the East River Tunnels Life Safety Study. This report clearly documented the need for investing several hundred million dollars to bring the East River Tunnels back up to a state of good repair. All four tunnels built between 1904 & 1909 outlived their useful life long ago. They have been in desperate need for major upgrades decades ago. Sadly since that study, over the past Five Year Capital Plans, the MTA & LIRR programmed insufficient funding to perform these tasks. As a result, over time there has been an increase in the frequency of major service disruptions due to storm and signal problems in the East River Tunnels. These problems periodically also occur between the Tunnel Portals and Harold Interlockings west of the Woodside Station. The MTA & LIRR also failed to develop a specific implementation plan with Amtrak who actually owns the tunnels to complete this extremely required work.
There is no room to run additional trains into or out of Penn Station during either a.m. or p.m. rush hours via the East River tunnels with connections to Long Island. Three of the four tunnels running inbound during a.m. and outbound p.m. rush hours have very tight spacing between trains. One tunnel is shared by the LIRR, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak for reverse train movements with equally tight spacing during rush hours. There is no platform capacity at Penn Station to accommodate any additional trains during rush hours. Penn Station is currently operating at 100 percent capacity during both a.m. and p.m. rush hours. If one of the four tunnels is temporarily out of service, the result is numerous delays and cancellation of trains.
Fast forward to today. Intelligent LIRR Port Washington branch riders know how to deal with the growing unreliability of service by utilizing alternative means of travel. Instead of waiting hour after hour at Penn Station looking at the clock, take the #7 express subway line from Times Square, Manhattan to Flushing, Queens. This trip averages 25 minutes. Connecting services are provided by New York City Transit Bus from Flushing on the Q12, Q13 and Q28 or Nassau Inter County Express (NICE) Bus on the N20 to Great Neck or Hicksville and N21 to Glen Cove (remember that the first stop to get off any east bound NICE Bus is at the City Line). There are also the QM2A or QM3 NYCT express bus route.
All of these bus routes pass by or are within several blocks of various LIRR stations on the Port Washington branch. A simple transfer to a north or south bound bus route also provides connections to other neighborhoods. Why stress yourself waiting for the train when you can also ride the bus?