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Another Round of Repairs for Penn Station NYC Will Mean More Schedule Changes

Officials assure commuters this will not be another ‘Summer of Hell’ starting after New Year’s

Penn Station NYC Amtrak repairs
Credit: Amtrak

A new round of infrastructure repairs that need to be made deep inside Penn Station in New York City will bring on another lengthy service change directly impacting two New Jersey Transit train lines beginning this coming January and running through May.

NJ Transit officials announced the planned service changes yesterday, indicating they will alter the schedule for both the morning and evening commutes into New York along the agency’s Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast lines.

The contingency plan calls for a total of five trains to be affected across the morning and evening commuting hours, with diversions that will use either Hoboken Terminal or Newark’s Penn Station. The changes could also affect commuters on other lines who could normally use these trains as a connection to go to and from Manhattan.

But the changes aren’t expected to be anywhere near as disruptive as those made by NJ Transit earlier this year after Amtrak took several months to make other repairs inside Penn Station following two derailments. That work forced thousands of commuters who normally have direct service into Manhattan on NJ Transit’s Morris and Essex lines to follow what was dubbed a ”Summer of Hell” schedule, with rush-hour trains diverted into Hoboken between early July and late September.

Out of service

This time, the service changes — which leave the Morris and Essex riders unscathed — are expected to begin on January 8, and remain in effect until the end of May 2018. Amtrak and Long Island Rail Railroad, which also uses Penn Station to bring daily commuters into Manhattan, are making service changes as well to accommodate the latest repair work, officials said.

“While this impact is far less than what we experienced this past summer, we encourage our Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line customers to do their homework and adjust their commuting plans if needed,” NJ Transit executive director Steve Santoro said yesterday.

Owned by the federal government, New York Penn Station is the busiest rail hub in North America, serving more than 500,000 Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, and NJ Transit customers on a daily basis. NJ Transit pays rent to Amtrak to use the station, along with other infrastructure the two agencies share along the portion of the Northeast Corridor that bisects New Jersey.

Off the track

After two derailments occurred inside Penn Station earlier this year, Amtrak officials decided to launch a major repair effort to restore Track 10 within the station, as well as a section known as “A” Interlocking. That work is what brought on the “Summer of Hell” service disruptions. The infrastructure headaches also brought new attention to Gov. Chris Christie’s handling of commuter issues, including his decision to cancel a major trans-Hudson tunnel project that called for NJ Transit trains to travel into a new terminus that was to be built around the corner from Penn Station.

But even as thousands of NJ Transit’s Morris and Essex commuters were forced to use the Port Authority’s PATH service or ferries instead of going directly into Manhattan, NJ Transit’s overall contingency plan was widely viewed as a success after the repair work was finished on schedule by the end of the Labor Day holiday.

Amtrak co-chief executive Wick Moorman pointed to that experience while announcing the new repair project earlier this week.

“After a successful summer, it is essential that we continue to upgrade the infrastructure so that we can continue to improve the reliability of service for all the customers that use New York Penn Station,” Moorman said.

Working on the railroad

This time around, Amtrak officials say workers will be making repairs to infrastructure inside Penn Station in the area of Track 15 and Track 18, as well as “C” Interlocking. Most of the work will occur during the weekends, but it will also require a series of weekday, single-track closures between January 5 and May 28, 2018, Amtrak officials said.

NJ Transit’s plan to deal with the track disruptions calls for an eastbound North Jersey Coast Line train that normally departs Long Branch at 6:11 a.m. to instead leave at 6:23 a.m. The train will also terminate in Hoboken instead of going into Penn Station in New York. In the evening, a train that normally leaves New York Penn Station at 5:25 p.m. will instead leave from Hoboken at 5:22 p.m., and a 6:51 p.m. train will be canceled.

On the Northeast Corridor, the eastbound train leaving New Brunswick at 7: 06 a.m. will terminate at Newark’s Penn Station instead of in New York. And in the evening, a train that normally departs New York at 5:43 p.m. will instead leave from Newark Penn Station at 6:03 p.m.

More information about the service changes is posted online.

NJ Transit officials, meanwhile, are also suggesting that commuters start looking at possible transportation alternatives, such as Academy and Suburban Transit/Coach USA bus services, and New York Waterway and Seastreak ferries.

“I want to thank our customers in advance as we continue to support Amtrak’s efforts to renew critical infrastructure at Penn Station New York and avoid a repeat of the derailments we saw this past spring,” Santoro said.

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