NEW YORK — The increasing challenges posed by the New York area’s aging rail infrastructure came into sharp focus Thursday as a congressional delegation prepared to get a firsthand look at the country’s busiest station on the same day commuters learned about summer schedule disruptions due to track repairs.
It’s the second time in three years that the replacement of equipment at Penn Station promises to cause delays during morning and afternoon peak periods for thousands of riders.
The station handles more than 500,000 people daily on trains from New Jersey and Long Island as well as the city’s subway system. It’s also at the center of a battle involving New Jersey, New York and the federal government over the funding of a new $13.7 billion Hudson River rail tunnel seen as critical to maintaining service along the corridor between New York and Washington, D.C.
Two years ago, repairs on the station’s west side near the Hudson River tunnel required the closing of several tracks and prompted a 20% reduction in rail service. Predictions of a “Summer of Hell” by Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo largely went unrealized, however, as disruptions were handled efficiently.
This year’s work, centered on the station’s east side that connects to rail yards in Queens, is less extensive, and no one is predicting the same level of disruption. Still, the Long Island Rail Road said it will have to cancel or divert seven trains each during the morning and afternoon commutes in July and August. The operator is adding trains before and after the peak periods in hopes of easing the crush.
Meanwhile, New Jersey Transit said 10 trains that normally originate or terminate in New York will switch to Hoboken, across the Hudson River, forcing commuters to take buses, ferries or other rail service to complete their journeys. That will add an estimated 20 to 30 minutes each way, NJ Transit officials said.
Seven Amtrak trains will be also affected, including one operating between New York and Washington, D.C., that will be cancelled
Democrat Rep. Peter DeFazio, of Oregon, heads the House of Representatives committee on infrastructure and transportation and will lead the tour Thursday and Friday of Penn Station, the tunnel and the connecting track system in New Jersey. The 109-year-old Hudson River tunnel was damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and requires ongoing maintenance to restore crumbling concrete and protect an aging electrical system.
The House delegation’s visit comes days after Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders agreed in principle on a long-term plan to spend $2 trillion on rebuilding roads, bridges and rail infrastructure throughout the country.
There’s no indication yet whether that plan would include money for a new Hudson tunnel, which, when completed, would allow the existing tunnel to be fully restored without service disruptions.
Federal transportation officials have made the tunnel ineligible for key federal grant funding, saying New York and New Jersey are relying too heavily on federal loans for their share of the project. Environmental approval of the project, needed to start construction, has also languished for more than a year.
Amtrak schedule adjustments will include:
- Northeast Regional Train 110, operating from Washington, D.C. (WAS) to New York Penn Station (NYP), and 127 operating from NYP to WAS will be cancelled.
- Northbound Keystone Train 640 is terminating at Newark Penn Station (NWK).
- Southbound Keystone Train 643 is originating at NWK.
- Southbound Keystone Train 653 is departing NYP early.
- Cardinal Train 51 will depart NYP early on weekdays only.
- Maple Leaf Train 63 and Adirondack Train 69 will be combined on the regular time slot for 63 and will split at Albany, N.Y. (ALB).
NJ Transit Changes
Beginning June 17, NJ Transit will be diverting select Midtown Direct rail service on the Montclair-Boonton line and on North Jersey Coastline train to Hoboken. Other service adjustments will include Morris and Essex Line Midtown Direct trains no longer stopping at Newark Broad Street during the morning and evening peak periods, and a limited number of Midtown Direct reverse-peak trains will operate from Hoboken.
New LIRR Schedule Changes Effective July 1 through September 2, 2019:
- The 6:56 a.m. train from Wantagh to Penn Station will be diverted to Atlantic Terminal.
- The 8:25 a.m. train from Freeport to Penn Station will be diverted to Atlantic Terminal.
- A 5:43 a.m. train from Freeport to Penn Station will be added and operate on weekdays this period.
- The 7:10 a.m. train from Babylon to Penn Station will not operate during this period.
- To help accommodate these customers, some scheduled stops from this train will be added to the 7:21 a.m. train from Babylon to Penn Station, and other stops will be added to the 7:44 a.m. train from Merrick to Penn Station.
- A 7:02 p.m. train from Hunterspoint Ave to Freeport will be added and operate on weekdays this period.
- A 3:31 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon will be added and operate on weekdays this period.
- The 4:34 p.m. train from Penn Station to Babylon will not operate during this period. Customers can board the 4:37 p.m. train to Wantagh, with added stops.
- The 5:19 p.m. train from Penn Station to Wantagh will not operate during this period. Customers can board the 5:24 p.m. train to Freeport, with added stops.
- The 5:40 p.m. train from Penn Station to Seaford will not operate during this period. Customers can board the 5:47 p.m. train to Freeport, with added stops.
Far Rockaway Branch
- The 8:10 a.m. train from Far Rockaway to Penn Station will not operate during this period. Customers can board the 8:21 a.m. train from Far Rockaway to Penn Station with added stops.
- The 4:42 p.m. train from Penn Station to Far Rockaway will originate at Atlantic Terminal.
- The 5:32 p.m. train from Penn Station to Far Rockaway will originate at Jamaica. To reach this train from Penn Station, customers can board the 5:24 p.m. Freeport train from Penn Station, and change at Jamaica.
- The 7:12 a.m. train from Hempstead to Penn Station will be diverted to Atlantic Terminal.
- The 5:04 p.m. train from Penn Station to Hempstead will originate at Jamaica. To reach this train from Penn Station, customers can board the 5:01 p.m. Farmingdale train from Penn Station, and change at Jamaica.
- The 5:38 p.m. train from Penn Station to Hempstead will originate at Atlantic Terminal.
Long Beach Branch
- The 8:03 a.m. train from Long Beach to Penn Station will be diverted to Atlantic Terminal.
- The 6:21 a.m. train from Speonk to Penn Station will depart Speonk approximately 5 minutes earlier.
- The 6:16 a.m. train from Speonk to Montauk will depart Speonk approximately 5 minutes earlier.
- A 5:12 a.m. train from Farmingdale to Penn Station will be added and operate on weekdays this period, stopping at Bethpage (5:16 a.m.), Hicksville (5:22 a.m.), Mineola (5:30 a.m.), and Jamaica (5:46 a.m.), arriving Penn Station at 6:05 a.m.
- The 6:54 a.m. train from Central Islip to Penn Station will terminate at Jamaica Station.
- The 1:59 p.m. train from Penn Station to Ronkonkoma, which normally operates on Holiday Eves, will operate on weekdays during this period on an adjusted schedule.