‘Summer of Hell’ transit repairs begin days before massive schedule changes

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NEW YORK — For weeks, the MTA has warned about the so-called "Summer of Hell" track replacement and repair project that would impact tri-state commuters beginning Monday and lasting all summer, through September 10.

However, that extensive track work actually begins Friday night, straight through this weekend. On Monday, train schedules will be officially affected.

A derailment Thursday night at Penn Station served as a reminder of why the track work is necessary, whenever it begins.

180 people were onboard an inbound NJTransit train that had a car come up off its track around 9 p.m. Thursday night.

Nobody was injured, but trying to get the train rolling again, as well as getting the track from which the train car had rolled off repaired, caused delays Friday morning.

"My friend said that Penn Station is a mess," said David Silberman, who was waiting for a mid-afternoon LIRR train. "But I haven't had any problems yet."

By evening rush, most commuter trains in and out of Penn Station were on or close to schedule. Amtrak trains, however, were almost all delayed.

No matter how the Friday evening rush went, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota has said that his agency is preparing for Monday to be much more challenging.

A major intersection of tracks connected to between one-quarter and one-third of the tracks at Penn Station will be removed and replaced in the work project. It's dubbed New York Penn Renewal, by Amtrak, which owns and operates all of the tracks at Penn Station.

That loss of tracks, on which NJTransit, LIRR and Amtrak trains ride, will have a residual effect on the entire local rail system.

The MTA is recommending that LIRR passengers commute in to Atlantic Avenue or Hunterspoint Avenue, rather than in to Penn Station. Doing so results in a ticket discount of up to 25 percent.

The MTA is also offering free subway transfers from the LIRR at Jamaica, Atlantic Avenue and Hunterspoint Avenue stations.

It's also operating ferries into Manhattan for free; the agency also recommends taking commuter buses, rather than trains.

Complete and up-to-the-minute information about "Summer of Hell" transit changes are at the following sites: