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Power Problems Snarl Morning, Evening Commutes For LIRR Riders

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Long Island Rail Road riders faced another morning of delays and cancellations into Penn Station on Thursday due to a power problem outside one of Amtrak's East River tunnels.

And there was more trouble during the evening commute, when an Amtrak power problem at Penn Station was affecting 12 tracks, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

As of 6 p.m., westbound service from Jamaica and Woodside to Penn Station was suspended. NJ TRANSIT is also telling customers to expect 30-minute delays in and out of Penn.

A train with 500 people on board became stuck in the tunnel because of power issues on the third rail, which is maintained by Amtrak. The LIRR said the disabled train departed Port Washington at 5:09 a.m. The passengers were evacuated onto a rescue train nearly two hours later.

Jessica Charitos heard the news over the loudspeaker as her train came to a stop.

"They said: 'We're sorry. Please be patient. A train is stuck on the tracks,'" she said.

"It's never been this bad," said rider Douglas Cooper. "I've never seen anything like it."

Julie Bass was 20 minutes late after her train passed right by the disabled train.

"You always feel bad when someone gets stuck on the train and then you say, of course, 'Thank God it wasn't me,'" she said. "But it seems so frequent now you're getting used to it."

Customers say they see tensions on board rising every day, CBS2's Magdalena Doris reported.

"The people are getting -- it's crazy. They are getting very upset with the conductors, and it's not their fault," one commuter said. "I feel bad for those guys 'cause they get abused every morning."

Others say it's time for the MTA and Amtrak to work together to fix the failing system.

"I'd like them to ride their own trains," rider Bernard Susman said. "They really ought to get serious. This is a really big, big problem."

There are four East River tunnels. The delays and backups were caused when the trains had to share three tunnels.

The LIRR says Amtrak is making repairs and apologized on Twitter "for the difficulty this caused for LIRR commuters this morning."

Arthur Freidman, of Great Neck, said he headed into work late after hearing about the morning delays.

When asked how his commute has been over the last few months, he said, "They've been terrible."

Mark Chellis, of Ronkonkoma, said over the last month, his commute has been "a little worse, but not dramatically worse for me," said Mark Chellis, of Ronkonkoma.

Meanwhile in an unrelated incident, Metro-North New Haven Line service was suspended Thursday between Stamford and Harrison due to overhead wire damage in the area of Cos Cob.

For more information, click here.

Speaking at the Genius Transit Challenge Conference, an international competition with a $1 million prize to come up with solutions to improve the transit system's reliability on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of the emergency for the MTA.

The state of emergency will enable the MTA to speed up the process of improvements to the aging transit system.

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