- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — A subway line serving tens of thousands of New Yorkers a day was knocked out of service and another was severely limited, possibly for years, because of a fire that authorities said might have been set by a homeless person trying to stay warm.

It will take “several millions of dollars and several years” to rebuild hundreds of relays, switches and circuits that track train signals and locations, NYC Transit President Lawrence Reuter said.

It was the most serious damage to the subway’s infrastructure since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which destroyed tracks and stations underneath the World Trade Center, Mr. Reuter said.

The fire was set Sunday in a shopping cart in or near the Chambers Street station in Lower Manhattan, fire officials said. It ignited cables above the platform and spread to a room full of switching and signal equipment, said NYC Transit’s parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Authorities think a homeless person trying to keep warm set fire to the cart full of clothing and wood, but no suspect had been located.

The C line — which carries about 110,000 daily riders in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens — was suspended, and the MTA said it was severely limiting the A line, which runs parallel to the C for part of its route, carrying about 470,000 passengers.

“Customers should be aware that there are no plans for the restoration of C service in the near future,” the MTA said.

At Pennsylvania Station, platforms were unusually crowded Monday night as commuters waited much longer than normal for A trains.

Liz Harvey, 22, said she thought the trip from her Queens home to work in Lower Manhattan would take an extra half-hour before and after work.

“I’m going to lose sleep because of this,” she said.

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