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Hearings in works to address LIRR gap issue

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The senators were considering the hearings five months after the death of Minnesota teenager Natalie Smead, who died Aug. 5 after falling in the gap at the Woodside station as she made her way to a rock concert in Manhattan. Gaps as wide as 10 inches were measured at the station after the accident.Several public Transportation Committee hearings were being planned for Long Island, Libous spokesman Brian Drew said, but the place and number was still not finalized by Tuesday.Newsday reported that there had been 342 gap incidents in the rail system from January 2001 until August last year. The station with the most incidents was Jamaica, with 53. Woodside with 23 gaps was third, behind Penn Station with 30. Shea Stadium had 15 over the period, the paper reported.Michael Harris, an activist for disabled riders, released a report Jan. 5 that alleged the LIRR knew gaps were as wide as 13 inches but did not move to close them until after Smead's death.Over the past several months tracks at Woodside, Shea, Jamaica, Rosedale, Locust Manor and Laurelton have been resurfaced, closing the gap by inches in each instance, a railroad official said.The platforms have also been shifted at nine stations, while the edge of the platform in four stations was thickened to close the gap."The LIRR is prioritizing gap-mitigation efforts, using the analysis of station gap measurements to reduce the gap through track surfacing, or realignment, where it is feasible," rail spokesman Sam Zambuto said. Victoria Vattimo, a spokeswoman for state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), said he supported the idea of the public hearings."Shedding more light on them, getting the problem solved, anything we can do toward that end is a good thing," she said. Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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