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LIRR, Amtrak announce “Summer of Hell” nearly over

The MTA and Amtrak announced the wrap-up of Penn Station repairs and a return to normal train schedules in conclusion to the “summer of hell.”
Courtesy of the MTA
By Mark Hallum

The MTA and Amtrak announced the wrap-up of vital infrastructure repairs to the nation’s largest transit hub, signalling the near-end of what Gov. Andrew Cuomo termed the “Summer of Hell.”

Train times in and out of Penn Station will return to normal Sept. 5, bringing a close to eight weeks of reduced service by 20 percent. MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota called the mitigation effort by the Long Island Rail Road a success, with little disruption of service for commuters coming from Long Island and Queens.

“Our goal was to provide our customers with a range of alternative travel options and planning tools to limit the repair work’s impact on the daily commute,” Lhota said. “I want to thank our customers for their patience and willingness to try the temporary travel options, as well as our employees for their hard work to make the transition as smooth as possible. Together, we were all able to get where we needed to go this summer with minimal disruption, and we are pleased that our customers will return from the Labor Day holiday to their regular timetables.”

The mitigation effort included trains with extra cars and express buses carrying people from points in Long Island and dropping them off near Penn Station in Manhattan. Ad hoc ferry service was dialed back by the MTA halfway through the eight weeks of overhauls, as ridership turned out to be lower than expected.

“We thank customers for their patience while we renew the infrastructure at New York Penn Station. We also appreciate the collaboration and support of our commuter partners, NJ Transit and the Long Island Rail Road,” Amtrak Co-CEO Wick Moorman said. “Our engineering forces are making great progress and we look forward to resuming scheduled operations Sept. 5.”

According to Amtrak, the eight weeks of repair work centered around a mechanism for sorting trains entering the station and onto their assigned platform.

New Jersey Transit and Amtrak riders experienced extensive delays and cancellations April 3, which reverberated beyond the scope of the city into New Jersey and the Northeast Corridor. Eight of the 21 tracks in Penn Station were shut down by a Jersey Transit derailment at a critical switching point. The tracks were not up and running again until April 7, upending commutes for many passengers on the LIRR. It was the second derailment in the station within 10 days.

The “Summer of Hell” has coincided with a state of emergency, declared by Cuomo due to the dire straits of the city’s subway system. Cuomo hoped to expedite repairs to the ailing city transit system by suspending bureaucratic processes and pouring an extra $1 billion in the MTA’s capital funds.

Last week, Cuomo announced work had begun at the former Farley Building adjacent to the Penn Station to transform the iconic structure into Moynihan Train Hall, a LIRR annex to Penn Station.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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