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Amtrak should pay for Penn Station disruptions, Cuomo says

Amtrak will begin emergency repairs at Penn Station on July 8.
Photo – Amtrak

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that Amtrak should pay for "mitigation expenses" related to a summer of altered commuter-rail schedules as the railroad makes emergency repairs to Penn Station in New York City.

Although the amount of mitigation expenses is not yet known, the cost should not be paid for by commuters or New York state taxpayers, Cuomo said in a prepared statement.

Amtrak has said the repairs will result in reduced track usage at the station from July 8-Sept. 1.

Cuomo also urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and New York City Transit, to stop making rent payments to Amtrak for use of Penn Station. If the MTA's board continues to make the payments, Cuomo said he would seek a state law to stop them.

The LIRR pays the railroad $50 million annually to rent track at the station.

Amtrak officials said that while they understand Cuomo's frustration with the situation, rebuilding the station's "complex system of switches and track simply can't be done efficiently or promptly on nights or weekends alone."

The railroad has done what it can to minimize the impact on commutes during the repair period, Amtrak officials said in a prepared statement.

"It is essential that we proceed with this work and not let the collective lack of investment by all users in the past create greater risks for the future," they said. "We all have a responsibility for taking the necessary steps to improve Penn Station and the funding that LIRR pays Amtrak for their proportional share of operating, maintenance and capital costs is required to keep the station operating reliably and safely into the future. Withholding such investments will only mean less work accomplished and more delay and impacts for riders."

New York state officials have adopted a "multi-pronged strategy to mitigate the inconvenience of these delays," including accelerated construction schedules on bridge and tunnel repairs so that all bridge and tunnel lanes will be open by July 8, according to Cuomo.

The state also accelerated the conversion to cashless tolling to reduce congestion, and expedited construction of the Farley Building conversion to what will become a new train hall for LIRR.

The MTA and LIRR will add trains, express buses and ferry service.

New Jersey Transit, which also uses Penn Station, also has announced changes to its schedule during Amtrak's repairs.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/16/2017