Amtrak Repairs to Disrupt Northeast Travel Beginning This Summer

Workers repair track in New York Penn Station after a NJ Transit train derailed

Workers repair track in New York Penn Station after a NJ Transit train derailed

Amtrak said it would be meeting with NJ Transit and Long Island Railroad officials in the coming weeks to map out a plan that would minimize the impact on commuters.

A joint committee in Trenton on Friday heard from Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman and Vice President Scot Napastek, as well as NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Steve Santoro.

Amtrak will shut down several tracks along the Northeast Corridor to make long-overdue rail repairs, a move set to cause mass delays to commuters traveling on the LIRR and NJ Transit, Amtrak announced at a press conference Thursday morning.

The two transit agencies have drawn ire from legislators and commuters over the past month after a pair of derailments at Penn Station crippled service throughout the region for days and a power failure stranded 1,200 NJ Transit riders in a Hudson River tunnel for almost three hours.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Chrsitie at the time said his state would withhold some $60 million in payments to Amtrak for use of its track and facilities until he was satisfied NJ Transit was getting its money's worth.

"It's just sad that we had to come to this point", he said.

Moorman said Thursday that Amtrak had known of the issues "some time ago" and that there will be some parts of the station where work will be continuous.

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While much of the work will be carried out on weekends as originally planned, "some tracks" will be closed on "some weekdays", and train schedules will change, Moorman said. That project was originally scheduled to be completed by sometime next year. That disruption caused major delays and crowded conditions on NJ Transit trains, and enraged customers who used social media to air their complaints, some directed at Christie personally. In future years, the new Gateway Tunnel project between New Jersey and Penn Station may become one of, if not the highest priority.

Amtrak officials have been mulling different solutions to these problems, and according to the New York Times, the organization seems to be taking a page from the MTA's playbook.

Amtrak says that while they've tried to mitigate commuter disruption in the past, the sheer number of problems at the station over the last month has prompted more significant action. "As far as the commuters go, we're going to try to do the best we can for them as well". Amtrak also is creating a mobile response team to address potential station overcrowding during peak periods, equipping its New York Division Amtrak Police Department officers with multi-band interoperable radios to improve intra-agency communication, and is already in the process of updating its Video Surveillance and Access Control System design for Penn Station platforms, tunnels and ventilation shafts.

"If they're talking about cancellations and delays we need to analyze that very quickly in terms of the impact to our customers", Santoro said.

Sarlo also said the fix work that will now be done at Penn Station is important for the region's economy given the number of New Jersey residents who have jobs across the river in NY. The project's federal funding is also in jeopardy.

"We have done a good job maintaining old and fragile infrastructure that supports the highest density of train traffic in North America", he said.

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