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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) yesterday announced Patrick Nowakowski will succeed Helena Williams as president of Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).MTA did not give a reason why Williams was being replaced, but New York City news media reported she was fired. Williams, who has been LIRR's president for nearly seven years, told Newsday that she was "surprised" and "greatly disappointed" that she was ousted, according to CBS News New York. The TV station's website reported the move came after the MTA and unions representing LIRR workers reached an impasse in contract negotiations.For the past five years, Nowakowski has served as executive director of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project, which is building a 23-mile line to connect with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's Metro system. Previously, he served more than 27 years with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), including seven years as assistant general manager of operations, according to an MTA press release.Nowakowski began his career in 1975 at the freight railroad that became Conrail, designing track layouts as a civil engineer. He joined SEPTA in 1981 as a senior civil engineer and developed a five-year capital plan for the agency's rails and roadbed. Nowakowski advanced through a series of positions with increasing responsibilities for delivering service, maintaining equipment and managing infrastructure."Pat Nowakowski is a railroad expert with a rare mix of skills and a long career of accomplishments," said MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast. "Our customers have high expectations for safe and reliable service, and events last year throughout the MTA family have shown why we must always stay focused on the basics of how best to provide that service."Prior to being named LIRR president, Williams served 13 years in other MTA positions, including five years as president of MTA Long Island Bus. At the LIRR, Williams improved the railroad's customer communications, oversaw major capital improvements along branches and at terminals, and planned for new service growth while shrinking costs.She was the first woman to serve as the president of an MTA agency, the first woman to run the LIRR, and the first woman to run the MTA when she served as the agency’s interim executive director and CEO in 2009, MTA officials said.Prendergast thanked her for her "long and successful service" to the MTA, LIRR and New York City region."Helena’s tireless work to improve the LIRR’s operations, communications and community relations has not just made the railroad better for LIRR customers, but has improved the economy and the quality of life for everyone on Long Island," he said.