Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Credit: Charles Eckert / File

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday he is putting together a plan to help LIRR commuters survive a “summer of hell” during proposed Penn Station infrastructure repairs and forming a task force — including Long Island lawmakers — to broker a takeover of the rail hub.

At the same time, his counterpart across the Hudson, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, was laying out a parallel plan to help Garden State commuters ease the pain, with a key difference: A discount on fares for those most impacted by the planned outages between July 4 and Labor Day.

Cuomo held his news conference at CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan to address the impact that proposed Amtrak construction at Penn in July and August could have on Long Island Rail Road commuters, who have been bedeviled by frequent recent service disruptions. Cuomo has warned that the rush-hour track outages at Amtrak-owned and operated Penn would be an “impending disaster” for the LIRR’s more than 230,000 daily commuters.

“Penn has been deteriorating literally for 50 years,” said Cuomo, noting what he described as a history of underinvestment in its infrastructure. “In many ways, the worst is yet to come.”

Cuomo offered his proposed short-term solutions to this summer’s disruptions at century-old Penn, including high-speed ferries, expanded limits on HOV lanes, and park-and-ride busing. It did not, however, include fare decreases for LIRR riders.

Christie’s plan would halve fares for riders of NJ Transit’s Morris and Essex lines that normally end or begin in Penn Station, which will now terminate in Hoboken. The cost, he estimated, would be $15 million, but Christie said he would find the money in the state’s budget.

Cuomo’s 14-member task force, consisting of state representatives, officials from Suffolk and Nassau counties, and transit experts, would figure out how to move Long Island commuters to and from New York City as Amtrak implements highly impactful, peak-hour service outages to repair rail infrastructure at the complex, the governor said.

“It will be a summer of hell for commuters,” Cuomo said. “You’ll have thousands of commuters looking for ways to get into Manhattan . . . We need to find — and need to find immediately — creative alternatives.”

For the long term, the task force would explore management options for Penn, including the takeover from Amtrak by a private operator, the Port Authority. The task force also would “interface” with Amtrak and federal officials to facilitate a takeover deal, Cuomo said.

Members named to the panel by Cuomo so far include Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and Kevin Law, head of the Long Island Association, the Island’s largest business group.

Under Cuomo’s plan, which he initially outlined in a letter to the White House on Sunday calling for federal intervention in fixing Penn, the state would combine the station takeover with other projects in the pipeline, including the Moynihan Station renovation-Penn Station expansion and Gateway.

The Democrat-led Assembly passed a resolution Tuesday supporting Cuomo’s request for federal funding to correct “dire” deficiencies at Penn, according to the resolution. The statement means Cuomo has the Legislature on board for quick actions that could ease a 20 percent loss of service this summer.

On Tuesday, Amtrak president and CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman announced that his agency intends to use national infrastructure solutions firm HNTB Corp. to supplement project management and technical services for the track renewal work at Penn Station.

“Amtrak is taking every step to ensure that we accomplish this work on schedule over the summer,” Moorman said. Amtrak will also increase its maintenance workforce and station staff, and strengthen operational coordination among the three railroads at Penn — Amtrak, LIRR and NJ Transit — during the work period, Moorman said.

Veronica Vanterpool, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member and executive director of the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said she was open to a private entity taking over Penn, but the Port Authority would be the wrong choice.

“I think the Port Authority already has a large portfolio of infrastructure projects,” she said after an MTA committee meeting Monday. “I don’t think Penn Station should be added to that portfolio.”

With Michael Gormley and AP

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