Commuters Sweat at Penn Station, Amtrak Promises Cool by Weekend

Amtrak didn't have the funds or the manpower to finish the work over the winter

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    There was no air conditioning inside Penn Station again Wednesday, making passengers hot under the collar and everywhere else. Andrew Siff takes a step inside to find out when there will be some relief. (Published Thursday, May 31, 2012)

    Commuters at Penn Station are sweating through the transit hub as Amtrak works to upgrade its 30-year-old heating and cooling system, but officials promise it will cool down in a few days.

    Amtrak's $30 million upgrade of the transit hub's ventilation system hit an unexpected obstacle this week: hot weather.

    "We've had an issue where it's gotten exceedingly warm within the station," said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole.

    He said the company's replacement of giant "chillers" is part of its overall upgrading of the system. But Amtrak didn't have the funds or the manpower to finish the work over the winter.

    Weary riders have been weathering the heat.
    "They definitely should have air-conditioning ... I would say it is unacceptable," said Erica Meister of the Upper West Side, who leaned her 15-month old daughter over a water fountain to keep her cool while they waited for a train to Philadelphia.

    And Frances Green, of Jamaica, Queens, fanned herself with a cardboard flyer while she lined up to buy an Amtrak ticket.

    "I'm about to faint," she said.

    Amtrak promised workers are toiling around the clock to get full cooling back to capacity by the weekend.

    But Cole cautioned that even then, during crowded rush hours, riders won't feel too cool. Not when 550,000 passengers race through the station.
    "There's a lot of body heat," he said.

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