The MTA’s top leaders said they expect to learn more details Thursday about Amtrak’s plan to address failing infrastructure inside Penn Station, and will push the agency to minimize the plan’s impact on LIRR riders as much as possible.
MTA acting chairman Fernando Ferrer and interim executive director Veronique Hakim said Wednesday that they were scheduled to hold a teleconference with top executives with Amtrak, which owns and operates Penn, to review findings of a comprehensive inspection of the station’s infrastructure undertaken after two recent train derailments. Amtrak attributed them to track problems.
“What they told us two weeks ago is that they needed two weeks to come up with a plan. My understanding is that’s what we’re going to hear tomorrow,” Hakim said at a Manhattan meeting of the MTA Board. “We expect, and they’ve committed to telling us, what their findings are and what, at least, their current view of the needed repairs will be.”
An Amtrak spokesman declined to comment Wednesday. Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said Tuesday that the agency was putting together a plan to “replace and rejuvenate” parts of Penn’s infrastructure, and that the plan “will result in some delays and cancellations.”
MTA officials said Wednesday they had no details about the plan, including on whether it would require relinquishing tracks used by the Long Island Rail Road at Penn Station for prolonged periods. Hakim said any plan would be looked over by MTA service planners to come up with ways to minimize impacts on riders.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday weighed in on the recent problems at century-old Penn Station, which he called “a debacle.”
“There’s no doubt that Amtrak has been substandard in their performance of their basic duty,” Cuomo said at a Brentwood news conference. “I understand why the passengers and the commuters have lost all their patience, and I’m with them. I have lost patience with Amtrak, and with the federal government.”
Amtrak has not kept the state well-informed on its repair work at Penn, he said.
Asked whether some level of inconvenience would be acceptable if it meant addressing Penn’s infrastructure needs, the MTA’s Ferrer said riders have been inconvenienced plenty already, including after an April 3 derailment at Penn that caused nearly a full workweek of delays and cancellations.
“That’s a lot of impact, and that requires our riders to be fairly tolerant . . . but that patience and tolerance runs its course,” Ferrer said. “We’re firm in our expectation that our riders will not be put out any further.”
Nancy Snyder, spokeswoman for NJ Transit, which also operates out of Penn, said the agency met with Amtrak officials last week and was assured that when a “track rehabilitation plan is fully developed, NJ Transit will get a full briefing and be part of that dialogue.”
More information on Amtrak’s plan for Penn Station is expected Friday when railroad president and CEO Charles Moorman appears at a legislative hearing in Trenton, New Jersey, on the recent service disruptions.
Used by more than 600,000 customers each workday, Penn has been plagued by calamitous rush-hour service disruptions in recent weeks caused by mismatched pieces of rail, collapsing wooden rail ties, dangling overhead electrical wires, and faulty switches. The problems have disproportionately impacted LIRR passengers, who account for about half of all riders into and out of Penn each day.
With David Olson