1999-11-20 / Front Page

Back On Track

North Channel bridge was out of commission on Wednesday due to a fire.

By Heather Dalton

Fire broke out on the North Channel bridge between the Howard Beach and Broad Channel train stations at approximately 3:55 a.m. on Wednesday, November 17. Engine 331 responded to the call and conducted a ride through, via train, to survey the scene. It was determined that the fire was in the bridge understructure and was not accessible to firefighters from the track level. Captain Dey of the FDNY then requested a fireboat. Harbor Unit Marine 6 appeared on the scene and the blaze was under control.

Structural damage to the bridge led Transit Authority officials to terminate train service between the Rockaways and Ozone Park. Local commuters arrived at their respective stations and were informed by officers from Transit District 23 and Queens transit task force personnel that their early morning commute would be altered.

Buses were dispatched to the 90 street Holland avenue station to shuttle passengers to Rockaway boulevard where they could connect with train service to Manhattan. Crowds of commuters from Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park gathered at 90 street to find that the limited number of buses were inadequate transportation. Others arrived at the station to discover no buses at all.

One commuter described the scene as "chaos." He felt the Transit Authority had appropriate time between the fire’s outbreak and early morning rush hour to make better provisions for its passengers.

By rush hour that evening normal train service was still suspended. Many locals faced the same headache on their way home.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, service between Rockaway boulevard and the Rockaways was back on schedule by 6:31 p.m. Wednesday evening.

At press time the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

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