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Long IslandTransportation

Penn Station renewal project more than 50% complete, Amtrak says

Workers replace rails, ties and concrete on Track

Workers replace rails, ties and concrete on Track 10 as part of Amtrak's infrastructure renewal project at Penn Station in Manhattan on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. The program is a series of initiatives to strengthen railroad infrastructure and improve the station's operations and preparedness. Credit: Charles Eckert

Halfway through the infrastructure renewal project at Penn Station, Amtrak says the work remains slightly ahead of schedule.

At the end of the fourth week of the eight-week project, track repairs are “a little bit more than 50 percent completed,” Gery Williams, the agency’s chief engineer, said Friday.

Williams said the work has gone so well that the agency will seek to take tracks out of service in the future to perform more work.

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo urged against any further disruptions to Long Island Rail Road commuters, attributing the success of the summer project to the MTA’s exhaustive and expensive mitigation efforts.

Among the Penn Station work accomplished this week was installation of 28 “timbers,” or 22-foot long wooden rail ties, the laying of 800 linear feet of new rail on track 10, and the pouring of new concrete for the track’s bed, Williams said.

The project, scheduled to be finished around Labor Day, has required taking three of the transit hub’s 21 tracks out of service for most of July and August — forcing the LIRR to reduce rush hour service there.

Asked by a reporter during a conference call whether the plan’s success would encourage Amtrak to seek to take tracks out of service in the future, Williams said it would.

“We will certainly be . . . asking for more,” said Williams, adding that Amtrak would only propose additional track outages “after we have well-planned them, looked at them and determined a need for them.”

“We’d have to work with everybody concerned,” he said. He included the LIRR among the agencies Amtrak would coordinate with on future outages.

Amtrak has already said it intends to take on a similar infrastructure renewal project at a portion of tracks east of Penn’s platforms that are used by the LIRR. The agency said that work would be carried out largely on weekends during the first half of next year.

In a telephone interview, Cuomo said he has “a much different view” of why the summer has gone smoothly despite the reduced capacity at Penn.

“It could have been devastating and it would have been devastating had we not taken the extraordinary actions that we have taken at great costs and great effort,” said Cuomo, referencing the MTA’s mitigation plan, which included running extra trains, ferries and express buses to serve LIRR commuters.

“The reason it’s not turned into the summer of hell is because we moved heaven and earth,” Cuomo said. He would not want a repeat of this summer’s disruptions, he added.

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