By Ben Brachfeld
Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng intends to resign his post at the end of the month, MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber announced Thursday. In his place will step Catherine Rinaldi as interim president, adding to her already full plate as president of Metro North.
Eng and Rinaldi both took on their respective positions in 2018, and shepherded their railways through the COVID-19 pandemic as ridership plummeted and finances took an unprecedented hit before being stabilized by federal money. Lieber noted that Eng had ended his tenure with some of the highest on-time performances in memory, after a higher proportion of trains arrived on time with each passing year of his tenure after arriving during a period of doldrums for the railway.
“Phil has been a really strong leader at the Long Island Rail Road,” Lieber said at a Thursday press conference at Grand Central Terminal. “As evidenced by the fact that in 2021, they had the highest on-time performance ever in the Long Island Rail Road’s 100-plus year history.”
Rinaldi, a native of Huntington in Suffolk County, will take the reins of both the MTA’s commuter railroads as they attempt to rebuild and plan for a post-pandemic world.
“I want to thank Janno for the confidence that he’s been putting in me by giving me this unbelievable opportunity and this unbelievable challenge,” Rinaldi told reporters alongside Lieber at Grand Central. “I’m very grateful for it, I’m very grateful to be able to serve in this way, and excited for the challenges ahead.”
Both the LIRR and Metro North lately have had only about half of the daily ridership they did pre-pandemic. Nonetheless, Lieber says that the LIRR is on solid footing to recover from the pandemic under Rinaldi’s stewardship.
“The railroad is in really solid shape and ready to welcome back many customers as the economy comes back and as commuting comes back,” Lieber said.
Rinaldi comes to the LIRR as it is in the midst of two massive infrastructure projects aimed at significantly expanding the railroad’s capacity: the $11 billion East Side Access project to bring LIRR trains into Grand Central Terminal, and the $2.6 billion “third track” project on the Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville.
“We need somebody who knows the commuter railroads, we need somebody who knows the MTA,” Lieber said. “And we need somebody who knows Grand Central as I said, where the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North are about to be roommates. For all these reasons, I’m naming Cathy Rinaldi to serve, in addition to her role at Metro North, as the interim president of the Long Island Rail Road.”
This story first appeared on amNY.com.