Cuomo expects ‘Summer of Agony’ at Penn Station, asks Trump for help
NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday called on President Donald Trump for federal help at Penn Station, saying the "impact of the state of disrepair" is at "a tipping point."
Although Amtrak has not released a final schedule of closures for this summer's work at the 112-year-old station, Cuomo cited earlier comments from Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman that service will be reduced by 20 percent for two "multi-week" periods to allow for the work, and wrote that will create a "summer of agony" for thousands of commuters. Highways, bridges, and tunnels will be "swamped" by alternative traffic, according to Cuomo.
"This reduced capacity will create a domino effect. We will see increased delays at surrounding regional transit systems, and our infrastructure will be stretched to its limits as they absorb a high volume of citizens in search of alternate routes," Cuomo wrote.
Cuomo referenced the president's New York roots in his letter, telling him, "As a New Yorker, I think you know the severity of the situation."
The governor, a Democrat, wants the federal government to help figure out and fund transportation alternatives while repair work is undertaken after a spate of problems, including two derailments. Cuomo also reiterated a call he has made before, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, that a private operator should take over operations at Penn Station from government-funded Amtrak, which operates the station that is also used by the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit.
In his letter, Cuomo said, "I know that you believe in privatization where appropriate and in this situation I think there is no doubt that it is appropriate."
He also suggested that Penn Station could be taken over by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
"We are glad to see Governor Cuomo join our long-standing call for increased funding for Penn Station, the Northeast Corridor and the Gateway Program. We agree that the heart of the problem is years of under investment and the overloading of an infrastructure and station designed to meet the needs of last century, not this one," Amtrak wrote in a response letter obtained by New Jersey 101.5.
The railroad, which maintains Penn Station and the Northeast Corridor said its Infrastructure Renewal Program is the "necessary first step" to reverse a trend of "insufficient investment in new capacity or renewal, coupled with constant pressures on the time available for maintenance." and our call for the three railroads to team up with private sector experts who operate complex passenger facilities can further jumpstart meaningful improvements in the station concourses."
"We welcome the opportunity to work with both Governors, their commuter railroads, the Administration and others to address the fundamental challenge of expanding and rebuilding Penn Station and advancing the Gateway Program while we all work together each day to provide the best service possible to all passengers under these strained condition," Amtrak wrote.
Christie said last week he and NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro were talking with Amtrak "to try to get to a reasonable position. I’m not ready yet to declare partial success or failure. I’m not yet to a point where I am satisfied with what Amtrak is saying but they’re being more attentive and we’re getting closer.”
Christie said he is "really angry" at the reduction in service, but also doesn’t want more derailments and delays the repairs are supposed to prevent.
Moorman had expected details to be released last week, but a date has not yet been set for an announcement.
On April 3, a derailment took out eight of 21 tracks for four days, creating widespread delays. That was blamed on weakened wooden cross-ties beneath a track portion. A derailment on March 24 was due to a mismatched rail joint.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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