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Officials mull plan for train station repairs

Lawmakers in New Jersey are questioning the wisdom of Amtrak’s planned track “outages” during Penn Station repairs scheduled for this summer after preliminary details of the plan surfaced on Monday. And a 25-day shutdown, beginning August 4 and lasting until August 28, will also have “significant impacts to service” that will require a “schedule change”, according to the document. The final plan may be determined as early as next week, she said.

Amtrak says it will meet again with Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit representatives to discuss a preliminary plan for service cutbacks at Penn Station in New York City this summer due to extensive fix work.

Other work will continue through next spring and will be performed primarily on weekends, according to the proposal.

Representatives from Amtrak and the LIRR didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Wick Moorman told a New Jersey legislative committee the goal is to have the work at the nation’s busiest rail station done by Labor Day. “But it also seems logical to ask why Amtrak wants to start shutting down tracks on July 7, rather than taking advantage of the four-day Fourth of July weekend to start the work”.

“But there will be a couple of longer outages to go on through the weekdays while that work is being done”.

Amtrak had previously believed that work on the nights and weekends would help them rectify the track situation, but a series of derailments and delays over the span of just one month has made them change course.

New York, with its crowded station and decaying, century-old rail tunnels underneath the Hudson River, is a chokepoint on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which runs from Washington to Boston and is the operator’s only profitable section.

Amtrak, the nation’s intercity passenger railroad, has said more than 400,000 people pass through the station each weekday. But the recent problems prompted Amtrak to speed up that timetable.

“What we are told, the disruptions will be comparable to what we saw a few weeks ago”, said State Sen.

NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro in a letter to riders Tuesday said the agency has received Amtrak’s preliminary plan, but “needs to fully scrutinize the information and negotiate with Amtrak in terms of our needs on behalf of our customers”.

Potential mitigation plans could include diverting Midtown Direct trains to Hoboken, or adding buses and ferries.

In their letter, Gordon and Weinberg urged Amtrak to include in their talks the Port Authority of NY and New Jersey, which operates commuter trains beneath the Hudson River and into the world’s busiest bus terminal, in Manhattan.

“The outcome of this, depending on the severity of the outages – this is a regional impact”, he acknowledged.

New Jersey’s next governor stands to inherit a still-stalled plan to build a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, a transit system racked by recent maintenance and safety issues, and a driving public unhappy about gas tax increases.

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