Amtrak's plans to update New York Penn Station may mean delays

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Commuters who already have endured recent slowdowns at New York's Penn Station may be about to face more of the same as Amtrak works to repair aging Penn Station.

Amtrak announced plans Thursday morning to replace tracks and other equipment as soon as this summer.

"Full replacement is now required to improve the reliability of this infrastructure," said Amtrak in a statement.

It is planning a series of major projects beginning in May and continuing through the fall, opting for faster improvement, rather than extending the work time period.

"Further renewal work of various station tracks will be undertaken through approximately June 2018, with a majority of that work done on weekends," said the release.

Amtrak will make repairs starting in the western portion of the station on tracks and switches. The area is critical to routing trains that enter Penn Station from the Hudson River tunnels and the Long Island Rail Road's West Side Yard to station platforms.

Amtrak acknowledged that the projects will require track closures and schedule changes for Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit.

"Without these improvements, Amtrak, NJ TRANSIT and the Long Island Rail Road could continue to see major disruptions, which could also have an impact on passenger safety," said Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman.

How much commuters will be affected remains unknown.

"While Amtrak cannot guarantee this repair project will be completed by the end of the summer, the majority of weekday disruptions are expected to be over by September," Moorman said.

He said the number of tracks closed at any time will fluctuate, with the emphasis on closing the most tracks during the overnight and weekends.

Hundreds of thousands of commuters and travelers from up and down the East Coast pass through the station each day.

In addition, Amtrak announced that recently retired MTA CEO and Chairman Thomas Prendergast will head a comprehensive review of Penn Station.

Amtrak also plans to create a task force to review handling of disabled trains.

Thursday's announcement comes on the heels of several electrical and track failures at the station, the country's busiest.

Two derailments and other problems since late March have caused chaos for commuters in New Jersey and on Long Island, as well as for travelers up and down the corridor between Boston and Washington.

Amtrak delays and disruptions have become a common occurrence for commuters at Penn Station. The ripple effects often impact service along NJ Transit and the LIRR.

"The simple fact of the matter is that some of the track and infrastructure in service today at Penn Station was built in the 1970s at a time when we were handling half the trains and a third of the customers that we do today," Moorman said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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