The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has completed work to upgrade the signal system in Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside, Queens, which the company said will benefit Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) customers.
MTA said the work clears the way for the start of the final East Side Access construction contract to begin work later in 2018.
Following extensive planning and testing, MTA said the new microprocessor-based signal system that controls train movements through Harold Interlocking is in use. The system is intended to provide LIRR and Amtrak passengers with a more dependable ride through the interlocking.
The new signal system has also been designed to improve reliability and ensure trains continue to operate smoothly. Officials explained that the routing of trains over all the switches and tracks in the area was previously operated out of a single location, and any failures or problems within that location had the potential to affect the entire system.
The new signal system has been broken into separate locations spread throughout the interlocking. If a failure occurs at one location, it is limited to that location and the smaller area it controls as opposed to impacting the entire interlocking.
As part of the two weekends of work in June and July that were scheduled to put the new signal system into service, the LIRR Main Line 4 was also placed in its final position, enabling a more direct train route, after several years of it following a temporary route that was required to allow for various construction operations.
“East Side Access is to Long Island what the Gateway Tunnel is to New Jersey – a second route for rail passengers, in case of emergency,” said MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber. “When East Side Access goes into service, there will be for the first time an alternate route into and out of Manhattan for commuters, allowing Amtrak to fix the existing East River Tunnels that were badly damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Fortunately, this project is much closer to the finish line than Gateway, and will become operational in 2022.”
As part of the East Side Access project, MTA said more than $1.5 billion is being invested in the Harold Interlocking, which the agency notes is the busiest passenger interlocking in North America.
The program is replacing a significant amount of the existing railroad infrastructure for Amtrak and LIRR, some of which dates back more than 100 years to the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The replacement work is expected to improve the system’s reliability and expand the interlocking’s capacity, as it serves four railroads at the nexus of the Northeast Corridor.