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Track repairs will gum up service at Penn Station through May

By Clayton Guse

Penn Station’s “summer of hellended last September after crews completed eight weeks of emergency construction on tracks and interlocking mechanisms at the dilapidated terminal. But that was just the tip of the iceberg—engineers have a long road ahead when it comes to remedying the deep-rooted issues at the country's busiest transit hub.

On Monday, Amtrak, LIRR and NJ Transit began implementing service changes that will last through May 28, giving way for another stretch of work that aims to fix some of the station’s most pressing infrastructure problems. During this round of repairs, work will focus on replacing a series of concrete sections near tracks 15 and 18 at Penn, as well as a trio of turnouts at the station’s “C” interlocking, which is used to direct Amtrak and LIRR trains en route to the Sunnyside rail yard. 

The bulk of the work over the next four months will take place on weekends and will cause only minor modifications to train operations in and out of Penn, according to a press release from Amtrak. In all, service on eight LIRR trains, five NJ Transit trains and eight Amtrak trains will be affected during construction.

The new phase of work at Penn kicks off a little more than a week after a letter from the Federal Transit Administration put the fate of one of New York City’s most pressing infrastructure projects in jeopardy. Dubbed the Gateway Program, the project would add two new train tunnels beneath the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey. The new tunnels would provide relief for trains bottlenecking in and out of Penn Station and allow for the two existing century-old tunnels beneath the Hudson to undergo essential renovations. The Regional Plan Association, an influential New York-based think tank, has called Gateway “the highest infrastructure priority in the nation.”

Penn Station is poised to undergo extensive renovations in the coming decade, and the misery for the roughly 600,000 commuters who rely on the hub every day is not expected to end any time soon. There is perhaps one small silver lining to this whole situation: Many years from now, New Yorkers will be able to tell their grandchildren stories about an era when every  form of transportation in the city was completely screwed. 

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