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Amtrak to Shut Down These Tracks During Penn Station Overhaul

Amtrak offers News 4 first look at the complicated interlocking at Penn Station where the repair work is set to take place this summer

What to Know

  • Three tracks at a time will be taken out of service during Amtrak's summer repair project at Penn Station, officials said Thursday
  • Tracks 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 will be taken out at any given time during the work in July and August
  • News 4 got a first look at Interlocking A, the a crisscrossing series of tracks where the bulk of the work will take place

Amtrak officials say at least three tracks at a time will be closed at Penn Station as part of extensive repair work there that is expected to inconvenience thousands of rail commuters this summer.

News 4 has learned that track nos. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 at Penn Station will be subject to closure during Amtrak's six-week project. At least three of them will be closed at a time at varying periods, though it's possible that more could be out at once during overlaps. 

When asked if all six tracks could be impacted simultaneously or at different times, a spokeswoman for Amtrak said, "We'll have more details when we release the plan."

Amtrak gave News 4 a first look at the repair site Thursday: the tangle of tracks called "A Interlocking," where 21 tracks converge and dispatchers operate decades-old track switches, is the focus of the work. That's where the railroad is replacing tracks, ties and switches just inside the tunnels where trains arrive from New Jersey. 

Three tracks will be taken out of service at a time because two are needed for staging and removing old equipment while work proceeds on a third track, DeCataldo said. He added that the replacement of track switches will have a greater effect on service because it limits dispatchers' flexibility in routing trains.

The work will take place from July through Labor Day; Amtrak Vice President Mike DeCataldo told News 4 Thursday, "We are confident in the estimate to get this work done." 

More than 1,300 trains move through the interlocking inside the nation's busiest train hub each weekday, twice what it did in the 1970s. 

Commuters are already dreading what Gov. Andrew Cuomo has predicted will be a "summer of hell," after a chaotic spring for New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road riders. Lisa Brown of Maplewood, New Jersey, said service on NJ Transit has been especially "horrific" in the last few months.  

"People are impatient, and you don't know what's gonna happen from one moment to the next," she said.

"It's a shame that we waited that long but it sounds like there's no alternative," said Rob Mayerson of Secaucus. 

Riders on NJ Transit's Morris & Essex Midtown Direct line are expected to be affected by the Penn Station summer work; they'll be diverted to Hoboken during the project, and from there, they'll be able to transfer for free to the PATH or the ferry, Gov. Christie said Tuesday. No other NJ Transit lines are expected to be affected. 

Many LIRR riders are already expected to be diverted from Penn Station to either Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn or Hunters Point or Jamaica in Queens. Cuomo said Tuesday that the state will set up alternatives for LIRR commuters, including a high-speed ferry, park-and-ride sites along the Long Island Expressway where drivers can carpool and get free tolls, free buses from Nassau and Suffolk, and the addition of new HOV lanes. 

Amtrak announced the repair project last month after two derailments and other major service disruptions highlighted the station's aging infrastructure. The replacement of aging 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 on nights and weekends. But the recent problems prompted Amtrak to condense the process to include weekdays.

Both recent derailments, one on March 24 and another on April 3, occurred in the general area of Interlocking A, though they were unrelated and caused by different factors, Amtrak officials have said. The April derailment, caused by aging wooden cross-ties underneath the rails, knocked out eight of the station's 21 tracks for several days, causing extensive service disruptions.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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