Amtrak’s leader says the severity of the disruption to train service into New York’s Penn Station won’t be known until his agency starts meeting next week with NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road to sketch out repair plans.

Amtrak announced Thursday that it will close some tracks for extended periods through the summer in order to make repairs too complicated to be done at night or over a weekend. Additional weekend work will then continue through next June.

Lawmakers pressed Amtrak president and chief executive officer Wick Moorman for details at a joint Senate and Assembly hearing Friday in Trenton, to no avail.

“We are jointly developing that plan with NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road, and the in-depth discussions to start to work though that plan together – because this has to be a joint effort – will begin at the beginning of next week,” said Moorman, who said it could then take until the following week for information to be ready to be announced.

“Our goal in this, while we do it, is to get this work done. It needs to be done. But to do it in such a way with our partners that we absolutely minimize the disruption in the station while it’s going on, and that’s a pledge we make to you,” he told lawmakers.

NJ Transit executive director Stephen Santoro told lawmakers his agency received a copy of Amtrak's repair plan Friday morning. He said he couldn't immediately assess the potential impact on the schedule but that NJ Transit will review it over the weekend.

In the wake of recent derailments caused by faulty equipment, Amtrak announced it will speed up what would have been a years-long plan to replace aging tracks.

Moorman and Amtrak’s vice president and chief operating officer, Scot Naparstek, told lawmakers the work is too extensive to complete in nightly four-hour windows or even an extended 55-hour shutdowns on weekends.

“This is the most complex piece of the station,” Moorman said. “There are pieces of it that just can’t be done in a weekend. And even if we tried to stretch it, we have reached a point now with these assets where if we stretched this out another year or two or three, and that’s what it would take, we are running more and more risk for the kind of unplanned disruptions that we’ve seen in the last month.”

Moorman, a former Norfolk-Southern executive, said the tracks at Penn Station are more complex than anything he’s seen elsewhere in the United States or Europe.

“Our current thought process before talking with everyone, is this will require two or three significant outages during the summer, and our intention right now is to hopefully – again, without having come up with the final plan – to have them done hopefully by something that approaches Labor Day,” he said.

“There will be impacts to everyone obviously, including Amtrak,” Moorman said. “As I said, we are going to be in those discussions at the beginning of the week. We will jointly arrive at the best plan that we can, announce it to everyone in plenty of time, including the implications for service that you’re asking about, so that people have time to prepare for it.”

Amtrak officials testify at a joint legislative hearing. (Michael Symons/Townsquare Media NJ)
Amtrak officials testify at a joint legislative hearing. (Michael Symons/Townsquare Media NJ)

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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