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Amtrak: Repairs at Penn Station on schedule, despite setbacks

Amtrak workers continue repairs during the major overhaul

Amtrak workers continue repairs during the major overhaul at the A Interlocking switch area Friday, July 14, 2017, at Penn Station. An LIRR train passes towards the west side yards at upper right. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Amtrak’s ongoing infrastructure renewal work is moving along on schedule despite some early setbacks, a top agency official said Friday.

Updating the public on the progress made in its latest round of repairs at Penn Station, Amtrak chief engineer Gery Williams acknowledged Friday that the project encountered some delays when crews working on Track 15 “found some concrete that was much more deteriorated that we thought.”

Despite being delayed in pouring new concrete for the track, Williams said crews eventually “caught up to the original schedule” — including by using an extra concrete pouring truck — without incurring additional costs.

“It really isn’t anything that we didn’t foresee potentially happening, so our planning around that paid off,” said Williams, noting that Amtrak built a “contingency” cushion into its schedule in case it encountered any unexpected issues.

The work, which began Jan. 5 and is scheduled to end May 28, entails the complete reconstruction of Tracks 15 and 18 as well as a complex switching location east of the Penn platforms. The project is a follow-up to Amtrak’s “summer of hell” repairs in July and August, which caused major service disruptions on the Long Island Rail Road.

Although the new work has had only minimal impact on the LIRR, it comes as the railroad has been beset by unrelated service disruptions in recent weeks. Last week, LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski blamed some of the issues on Amtrak’s neglect of Penn — including problem areas that he said Amtrak still has no plans to address.

“They’ve allowed things to deteriorate in too many places that aren’t being worked on at this point in time,” Nowakowski said.

Responding to the criticism, Williams acknowledged that there is more work to be done at Penn even after the conclusion of the ongoing project.

“We have plans for the next four to five years to spend time in and around that station doing significant work,” Williams said. “So there are plans out there.”

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