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Penn Station work to be completed around Labor Day, Amtrak says

Amtrak crews pour concrete onto Track 7 of

Amtrak crews pour concrete onto Track 7 of Penn Station in order to hold wooden ties in place that support rails that carry about 1,300 weekday train movements by three different railroads on Friday, April 28, 2017. Credit: Amtrak

New details emerged Friday about Amtrak’s plan to take some Penn Station tracks out of service this summer to perform infrastructure upgrades on the LIRR’s aging and overstressed Manhattan terminal.

A panel of executives from Amtrak, which owns and operates Penn Station, testified before the New Jersey State Senate Legislative Oversight Committee in Trenton on Friday. The hearing came a day after Amtrak announced a multistep plan to address some of the problems at Penn, through which 600,000 customers travel each day — nearly half of them on the Long Island Rail Road.

Amtrak president and CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman declined to provide many specifics about the agency’s plan to take some of Penn’s 21 tracks out of service for prolonged periods during the summer months to perform upgrades on the western part of the station’s tracks. He did say that he expected the project would entail “two-to-three significant [track] outages” during weekday periods and that the bulk of the work would be completed by around Labor Day.

“There may be different numbers of tracks closed at different times of the day. We have to work through that,” Moorman said. “Obviously our goal is to have the least number of tracks closed that we possibly can during the two peaks.”

Moorman said Amtrak would meet with officials from the LIRR and NJ Transit over the next week to work out details of the project and its effect on rail customers. Information will be released to the public early in the week after that.

The project follows a string of major service disruptions originating at Penn in recent weeks, including two train derailments in 10 days.

Meanwhile, Assemb. Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), chairman of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, said Friday that he intended to hold a hearing next month to discuss the recent problems at Penn Station and their impact on the LIRR.

Dinowitz was responding to a letter sent to him by Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) calling for both houses of New York’s State Legislature to hold an “emergency, joint hearing” that would include Amtrak representatives. “In light of serious issues surrounding Penn Station . . . and its failing infrastructure, Long Island commuters have faced unprecedented hardship that must be addressed,” Kaminsky wrote.

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