An LIRR commuter watchdog group has asked the federal government to help cover the cost of the Long Island Rail Road’s plan to transport customers this summer during Amtrak’s planned service outages at Penn Station.
The LIRR Commuter Council on Thursday sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking for funding “to allow the MTA and LIRR to defray these costs without placing an undue burden on either LIRR riders or New York taxpayers.”
With Amtrak taking three tracks out of service at Penn Station during most of July and August to modernize aging infrastructure, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has embarked on a wide-ranging mitigation plan that includes supplementing train service with express buses and ferries. The MTA has not estimated how much the plan will cost, but has said that just giving trucks a 50 percent discount on overnight tolls in order to reduce daytime traffic could cost the agency $10 million in lost revenue.
The MTA has said it wants Amtrak, which owns Penn, to cover the cost of the plan, but Amtrak has said it is legally prohibited from doing so.
“It is not equitable that this financial burden be borne by LIRR riders and the taxpayers of New York, as the failure to repair New York Penn Station infrastructure lies outside of the scope of the LIRR and MTA’s responsibilities. Instead, this failure falls directly in the scope of responsibility of Amtrak, a corporation created by the federal government to advance the national interest in maintaining intercity passenger rail service,” LIRR Commuter Council Chairman Mark Epstein wrote in the letter.
“As the issues that are facing the LIRR riders are borne of years of deferred maintenance that was the responsibility of a corporation created and funded by the federal government, we cannot accept the burden of the issues falling on the backs of LIRR riders,” Epstein added.
Representatives for the U.S. Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.