Amtrak: 6 Weeks of Disruptions for Penn Station Repairs

NEW YORK (AP) -
Amtrak, train, Penn Station
Amtrak workers repair railroad tracks in a tunnel at New York’s Penn Station last month. (Amtrak via AP)

Rail travelers who have endured delays and cancellations prompted by equipment failures would face about six weeks of significant service disruptions this summer to accommodate repairs at New York’s Penn Station, according to a plan proposed by Amtrak.

The document obtained by The Associated Press describes work scheduled between July 7 and July 25 and again between Aug. 4 and Aug. 28 as causing “significant service impacts” and requiring service adjustments.

Those service changes aren’t specified, and the plan is not final. Last week Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman said that negotiations would continue this week with the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit, the commuter railroads that transport hundreds of thousands of people in and out of the nation’s busiest rail station each weekday.

Other work will continue through next spring and will be performed primarily on weekends, according to the proposal.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said meetings were held Monday with representatives of the LIRR and NJ Transit and that the parties would reconvene on Thursday to review the plan.

“All groups are working with the common goal of creating service schedules that minimize impact on the traveling public when we do the necessary upgrades to Penn Station,” spokeswoman Christina Leeds said in an email.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the LIRR, said the agency was in discussions with Amtrak and would ensure that riders’ best interests are represented. A spokeswoman for N.J. Transit didn’t return a message seeking comment.

Later Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that Congress is giving Amtrak a funding boost: The bipartisan budget agreement gives Amtrak $1.495 billion, a $105-million increase over last year and the highest total since 2010.

A $328 million federal grant will go toward Northeast Corridor work.

Aging equipment has been blamed for recent delays and problems. An April 3 derailment, blamed on weakened wooden cross-ties beneath a portion of track, knocked out eight of the station’s 21 tracks for four days and created widespread delays for commuters and travelers up and down Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C.

Amtrak, the nation’s intercity passenger railroad, has said that more than 400,000 people pass through the station each weekday.

Amtrak’s replacement of 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 during off hours. But the recent problems prompted Amtrak to speed up that timetable.

Some New Jersey legislators criticized the plan Tuesday for not taking advantage of the July 4th and Labor Day weekends to minimize impact on commuters.

“New Jersey commuters endured a week of massive overcrowding and unacceptable delays in the week following the April 3 Amtrak derailment when eight tracks were shut down,” Democratic Sen. Bob Gordon said in a statement. “We can’t expect them to suffer through an entire summer like that.”