New York

Amtrak: 6 Weeks of Disruptions for Penn Station Repairs

What to Know

  • Amtrak describes work scheduled between July 7 and July 25 and again between Aug. 5 and Aug. 28 as causing "significant service impacts"
  • The plan is still being negotiated with the LIRR and NJ Transit, which also use Penn Station
  • Aging equipment has been blamed for recent delays including two derailments

Rail commuters would face about six weeks of significant service disruptions this summer to accommodate repairs at New York's Penn Station prompted by recent equipment failures, according to a plan proposed by Amtrak.

The document obtained by The Associated Press describes work scheduled between July 7 and July 25 and again between Aug. 4 and Aug. 28 as causing "significant service impacts" and requiring service adjustments.

Those service changes aren't specified, and the plan is not final. Last week Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman said negotiations would continue this week with the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, the commuter railroads that transport hundreds of thousands of people in and out of the nation's busiest rail station each weekday.

Other work will continue through next spring and will be performed primarily on weekends, according to the proposal.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said meetings were held Monday with representatives of the LIRR and NJ Transit and that the parties would reconvene on Thursday to review the plan.

"All groups are working with the common goal of creating service schedules that minimize impact on the traveling public when we do the necessary upgrades to Penn Station," spokeswoman Christina Leeds said in an email.

A spokeswoman for the MTA, which operates the LIRR, said the agency was in discussions with Amtrak and would ensure that riders' best interests are represented.

NJ Transit confirmed to News 4 it has met with Amtrak about the tentative work schedule, and is "thoroughly reviewing the plan to determine its impact on our customers." 

Amtrak President Wick Moorman told News 4 in an exclusive interview last Friday that "there will be work during the weekdays but it's certainly not going to be every day this summer or anything like that. We just need to work through it and see how many days, and when."

There will be a "substantial" number of weekends in which tracks will be taken out for the work, and disruptions there should be fairly minimal, Moorman said. 

"But there will be a couple of longer outages to go on through the weekdays while that work is being done. We will have crews there continuously," he said.

Aging equipment has been blamed for recent delays and problems, including two derailments. An April 3 derailment knocked out eight of the station's 21 tracks for four days and created widespread delays for commuters and travelers up and down Amtrak's Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C.

Amtrak, the nation's intercity passenger railroad, has said more than 400,000 people pass through the station each weekday.

Amtrak's replacement of tracks and other equipment, much of which dates to the 1970s, initially was scheduled to be completed over a two- or three-year period, mainly during off hours. But the recent problems prompted Amtrak to speed up that timetable.

Some New Jersey legislators criticized the plan Tuesday for not taking advantage of the July 4th and Labor Day weekends to minimize impact on commuters.

"New Jersey commuters endured a week of massive overcrowding and unacceptable delays in the week following the April 3 Amtrak derailment when eight tracks were shut down," Democratic Sen. Bob Gordon said in a statement. "We can't expect them to suffer through an entire summer like that." 

NJ Transit Executive Director Steven Santoro told News 4 last Friday it's possible disruptions could vary week to week, and each disruption scenario will be different, depending on which of the 21 tracks at Penn Station are being replaced.

Potential mitigation plans could include diverting Midtown Direct trains to Hoboken, or adding buses and ferries. In any of those cases, the Port Authority Bus Terminal could be impacted from handling additional buses, or the New Jersey Turnpike could see additional traffic if people choose to drive.

"The consequence of this, depending on the severity of the outages -- this is a regional impact," he acknowledged. "It's not just New Jersey Transit or Long Island Rail Road, it goes to all other forms of transportation in and around the region."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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