What to Know
Amtrak's planned repair work at Penn Station this summer will comprise two or three "significant" disruptions, the president says
It's still not clear how much the weekday commute will be impacted, though Amtrak says there won't be work every day this summer
NJ Transit says it's possible disruptions could vary week to week, and each disruption scenario will be different
There will be some normal commuting days through the course of major track work planned at New York Penn Station through the summer, the heads of Amtrak and NJ Transit told News 4 exclusively Friday, but it's still not clear just how extensive the impact will be on rail riders.
"There will be work during the weekdays but it's certainly not going to be every day this summer or anything like that," Amtrak President Wick Moorman said. "We just need to work through it and see how many days, and when."
He later testified to a New Jersey legislative committee that the work will require two or three significant disruptions, and that the goal is to have the work done by Labor Day.
Santoro and Amtrak spoke to News 4 Friday before testifying. Hundreds of thousands of commuters have endured delays lately due to two derailments and train breakdowns in the tunnels leading into the station. The problems prompted Amtrak to move up its plans for repair work at the station, and Moorman announced Thursday that it will begin replacing the aging tracks and infrastructure at Penn Station next month.
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 told News 4 Friday.
"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.
Moorman said schedules are still being worked out but he admitted he doesn't know how many commuting days will be affected by the work.
Amtrak has laid out at least an initial plan on the work that needs to be done, and how it might be sequenced, Moorman said. But Amtrak still needs to sit down and talk with NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road to talk about their commuter needs, and what will minimize impact and disruption to them in order to determine how many tracks are closed each day.
NJ Transit Executive Director Steven Santoro said 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.
"It depends on the location. If the [track outages] are on the north side of the station, that's a different answer. If it's on the south side, different answer. If they're in the throat, different answer," he told News 4. "And then there's the coordination with the Amtrak and LIRR. So that ballet between the three railroads and the location of the track being taken out of service is going to impact how much service we can provide."
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 consquence 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."