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Last steps to ease LIRR’s ‘summer of hell’ being taken, MTA says

Under Amtrak's proposed Gateway project, a new Hudson

Under Amtrak's proposed Gateway project, a new Hudson River Tunnel will be built. Credit: Amtrak

The MTA’s top officials said Thursday they are putting the finishing touches on their plan to help Long Island Rail Road commuters navigate the so-called summer of hell that will begin Monday, when an Amtrak construction project will take three Penn Station tracks out of service for two months.

In a conference call with reporters, newly minted Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota and interim MTA executive director Veronique Hakim detailed some of the final steps being taken before the Penn Station service disruptions begin next week. They include coordinating communications strategies among the LIRR, the New York City Transit subway system, police and other law enforcement, Lhota said.

“We’re going through the logistics necessary to make sure that, come Monday morning, we know who to talk to, who to call if we have any situation,” Lhota said. “Monday is a test. There’s no question. Tuesday will be another test. Wednesday will be a third test. It will continue all through the week.”

Over the weekend, the LIRR will also add a pair of cars to several trains heading to Penn Station on Monday morning, Lhota said. Other parts of the MTA’s plan, which includes running ferries and express coach buses between Long Island and Manhattan, are also in place, said Hakim, noting that the bus operators have already performed “dry runs.”

“All the marks have been covered,” Hakim said. “We know that this is going to be a tough couple months. But it is temporary . . . We very much appreciate people’s patience.”

The rush-hour service disruptions are necessary as Amtrak, which owns Penn, works throughout the summer to replace aging track components. The project follows a string of infrastructure-related service disruptions at Penn, the busiest train station in the nation, serving about 600,000 customers daily.

Amtrak on Thursday announced a major milestone in a key effort to modernize the Penn Station and its connecting tracks — the completion of the draft environmental impact statement for its $24 billion Gateway project, which includes building a new Hudson River rail tunnel to and from Penn and eventually doubling train capacity at the station.

“The kind of delays and capacity . . . issues that you see every day getting into Penn Station will be alleviated,” John D. Porcari, interim executive director of the Gateway Program Development Corp., said at a Penn Station news conference.

The environmental study will be released to the public on Friday, and a public hearing on the project will be held at the Hotel Pennsylvania, across from Penn, on Aug. 1.

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