Amtrak work at Penn Station likely to cause rail delays this summer

NJ Transit late notices

About 600,000 passengers come through Penn Station on an average weekday, headed to and from destinations in New Jersey, Long Island, upstate NY and beyond, with multiple railroad companies sharing just 21 tracks.

Earlier this week, NJ Transit announced that any NJ Transit commuter passing through New York Penn Station will end up sacrificing an extra 15 minutes per weekday trip due to ongoing Amtrak maintenance work and track inspections.

The two transit agencies have drawn ire from legislators and commuters over the past month after a pair of derailments at Penn Station crippled service throughout the region for days and a power failure stranded 1,200 NJ Transit riders in a Hudson River tunnel for almost three hours.

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had promised to halt state payments to Amtrak after the derailment but said Thursday after an unrelated address to a business group that the new efforts satisfied him.

The events of the past month have shown that "we have to step up our game", he added. The result, he said, is a "century-old station with 40-year-old tracks" and many components that have passed the point of needing to be replaced.

Santoro and Amtrak spoke to News 4 Friday before testifying.

But officials didn't yet know how exactly riders will be impacted by the work, which Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman said was necessary to avoid the risk of more "unplanned disruptions".

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.

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That damage will eventually force Amtrak to close one, if not both, of the current tubes under the Hudson River, Moorman said. New Jersey Transit's executive director expressed deep frustration that it's a major player and pays fees for Amtrak facilities but has had little control over maintenance decisions. "Commutes are never fun at the best of times and when they are lengthened for any reason - and particularly when those reasons have to do with Amtrak - we understand that, we apologize for that".

"Federal legislators from NY and New Jersey understand what the problem is".

Commuters who already have endured recent slowdowns at New York's Penn Station are about to hear about more potential delays.

"These delays and cancellations affect people's lives", said Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio. Moorman said negotiations would continue next week, and an announcement would be made the following week.

Sarlo also said the fix work that will now be done at Penn Station is important for the region's economy given the number of New Jersey residents who have jobs across the river in NY.

"A few weeks ago I couldn't get back, I had to have someone drive me home because of what was going on in Penn Station", she says.

Before the hearing started, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) said the recent renewal of the state Transportation Trust Fund - fueled by last year's 23-cent gas-tax hike - means there is now more money available for infrastructure upgrades that should benefit NJ Transit and its customers in the coming years. Metro North wants to begin service, at a cost of $700 million, from the East Bronx via The Hell Gate Bridge and Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside Queens on to Penn Station some time between 2021 and 2023.

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