Amtrak announces NY Penn Station rehab project — no word on delays
NEW YORK — Amtrak has announced a major rehabilitation plan that will require the closure of some tracks this summer.
The project, which Amtrak officials said has been in the works for some time, was announced Thursday after a recent series of debilitating derailments and construction delays that left commuters fuming and elected officials calling on the federal railroad corporation to ramp up efforts to address its aging infrastructure.
Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman said the New York Penn Station Improvement Infrastructure Initiative will compress some work that was already scheduled to take place over several years into several projects that start in May and last into September.
Most of the work will take place on weekends but some will take place on weekdays, which will require track closures.
But Moorman did not know which specific tracks and platforms will be closed, or when. During a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, he said he understands that anything done in Penn Station has an impact on commuters.
"It is our goal to cause the least amount of disruption in that station that we can. There are going to be some tracks closed during some weekdays. It doesn't mean there are going to be lots of tracks closed every weekday for extended periods of time, and part of our goal is to minimize that. But in terms of specific platforms and specific tracks we're going to have a much better idea of what the plan is once we sit down with NJ Transit and LIRR."
Moorman said they will "communicate well in advance of any possible disruption or impact" on riders.
The exact cost of the project is yet to be determined. Moorman estimated it would cost "tens of millions of dollars, some of which would come from the deferment of technology projects.
NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said the agency met with Amtrak last week to discuss the project
"NJ Transit has been assured by Amtrak that when their [Penn Station] track rehabilitation plan is fully developed, NJ Transit will get a full briefing and be part of that dialogue," Snyder said.
Moorman said the that the projects are not directly in response to the recent derailments but "have been on the list for a while..
The major part of the project is the Infrastructure Renewal Program, a full replacement of of the tracks and switches known as "A interlocking," which is a critical mechanism that routs trains that enter Penn Station from the Hudson River tunnels and the LIRR West Side Yard.
"Rather than proceed with the full replacement of these components across an extended period stretching out over several years, as originally scheduled, Amtrak now plans to advance this work through a series of major projects beginning in May and continuing through the fall," Moorman said, adding that additional work will continue through June 2018.
Another key elements of the project includes a review of the "interaction, coordination and collaboration" between concourses within the 112-year-old station to be managed by retired MTA CEO and chairman Tom Prendergast. He will "develop recommendations on how the three railroads, working with other relevant parties, can improve the passenger experience, signage and wayfinding, video and communications, and incident response across the entire station.
The project also includes the development of a joint station concourse operations to better communicate the response to disruptions and emergencies within the station. A task force will be formed to review protocol about disabled trains while a mobile task force will be created to respond to overcrowding.
The issues to be addressed have been been on the list for a while, not just in response to the incidents in recent weeks. Gov. Chris Christie, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., recently have called on Amtrak to "step up and do a better job" of running Penn Station, Moorman said. "We understand the frustration and we are responding to the frustration.
"The events of the past month have shown that we have to step up our game," he added.
Among the major incidents since last year:
- Tuesday: A fallen wire in the Queens led to major delays on the afternoon commute after NJ Transit announced indefinite delays of 15 minutes weekdays and 30 minutes on weekends
- Monday: Amtrak begins track maintenance and inspection which leads to lengthy delays after an issue was discovered in the concrete foundation of Track 7.
- Friday:April 14 1,200 passengers were stuck on a disabled NJ Transit train stranding thousands at Penn Station New York. The situation was thrown further into chaos when Amtrak police used a Taser to subdue a suspect, creating a stampede out of the station.
- Monday, April 3: The derailment of an NJ Transit train at New York Penn Station led to reduced “holiday service” with overcrowded trains for most of the week.
- Friday, March 23: An NJ Transit train derailed at the platform when it was side-swiped by an Amtrak Acela train. Eleven tracks were taken out of service
- Wednesday, March 15: A day after shutting down the Northeast Corridor in anticipation of a major snow storm, NJ Transit brought back limited service as all tracks and equipment were inspected in accordance with federal regulations.
- Thursday, Sept. 29: A train entering Hoboken Terminal at 20 to 30 mph faster than the posted speed limit slammed into the abutment on Track 5 and crashed through the wall into a reception, killing a woman and injuring 100.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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