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Penn Station could see 10 Metro-North trains every hour by 2019

People disembark from a Metro-North train at Grand

People disembark from a Metro-North train at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. (March 20, 2013) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

As many as 10 Metro-North trains every hour could stream into Penn Station during the morning rush once the link to Manhattan's West Side is opened up to Hudson Valley commuters in 2019, according to new MTA documents.

Among them would be several New Haven Line trains that would arrive at Penn Station every 20-30 minutes, according to a presentation Metro-North's parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, gave Connecticut officials earlier this month.

"It adds additional service to get more vehicles and cars off the road, to give people more transportation options not only to get to Manhattan but to get to more places in the region," interim MTA chairman Fernando Ferrer said of the Penn Station project, which a 2008 state comptroller's report estimated would cost $1.2 billion.

"There's enormous support for that and the job creation potential is huge," said Ferrer, a former Bronx borough president.

As part of the Penn Station Access project, Metro-North would run six to 10 trains an hour to Penn Station during the morning peak period, which lasts from 6 to 10 a.m.

And four Metro-North trains an hour would run from Penn Station to Connecticut during the morning rush to accommodate reverse commuters. Two New Haven Line trains would run to and from Penn Station during off-peak periods and on weekends.

No information was provided on how many trains Metro-North would operate at Penn Station during the 4-8 p.m. evening rush.

Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders cautioned that the numbers used in its presentation represent "a working concept, a basis for discussion, not a policy decision."

Currently, Penn Station's 11 platforms and 21 tracks serve the Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit and Amtrak.

During the coming months, the four railroads that will use Penn Station once access is expanded in the fall of 2019 will be trying to figure out ways to expand.

And in the coming weeks, the MTA plans to hold informational meetings about its Penn Station usage plans with groups representing commuters. An environmental assessment, which would be the basis for federal funding, is expected to be finished by the end of 2013, Anders said.

Giving Metro-North trains access to Penn Station long has faced opposition on Long Island, including from eight state senators. They have said that accommodating a fourth railroad at Penn Station could force LIRR to run fewer trains and contribute to already-crowded conditions.

State Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick, Long Island), who heads the Senate Transportation Committee, which would have to approve state funding for the MTA, said that unless he is assured that the LIRR will not be harmed by the Penn Station plan, he will oppose it.

"And the MTA has not assured me of that," Fuschillo said. "I don't support Connecticut trains coming at the expense of the Long Island Rail Road."

Metro-North's addition will bring tens of thousands of commuters into a station that already serves some 220,000 LIRR passengers alone every day.

But, MTA officials said, many of those Long Island commuters will be diverted to Grand Central Terminal once the East Side Access Project is finished in the next six years.

The $8.24 billion project will give Long Island commuters a path to Grand Central for the first time by way of tracks and a brand new terminal being built in the caverns beneath the 100-year-old landmark.

Metro-North's presence at Penn will be made possible by linking the New Haven Line to Amtrak's existing tracks on its Hell Gate Line. After New Rochelle, Metro-North trains will either head to Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal.

Six Westchester County stops on the New Haven Line will gain access to Penn Station. Passengers south of New Rochelle -- in Mount Vernon and Pelham -- will have access only to Grand Central.

As part of the Penn Station Access project, construction on four stations in the Bronx -- at Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City -- is expected to begin in 2015.

Later, Hudson Line trains will also gain access to Penn Station by linking them to tracks being used by Amtrak on its Empire Connection Line, which runs along the Hudson River. Stations are planned for Columbia University and the Upper West Side.

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