Senate Legislative Oversight/Assembly Judiciary Committees to inspect site of major repair work at NY Penn Station that is projected to cause 25% cut in NJ Transit rail service this summer
TRENTON – With breakdowns at New York Penn Station continuing to cause massive commuter delays, Senate Legislative Oversight Chair Bob Gordon and Assembly Judiciary Chair John McKeon announced that they will be meeting with Amtrak and NJ Transit officials tomorrow for an inspection tour of New York Penn Station and the Sandy-damaged tunnels to assess plans to shut down up to five tracks this summer for major repairs.
“While Amtrak, NJ Transit and the Long Island Railroad continue to negotiate the details, it is clear that the planned repairs to New York Penn Station will result in at least a 25 percent reduction in NJ Transit rail service to New York for much of this summer,” said Senator Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Furthermore, we have learned that the extensive repairs to the Long Island Railroad tracks next spring will also cause at least some reductions in scheduled NJ Transit rail service, starting as early as late February and continuing through early June. This is a best-case scenario. We know breakdowns will continue until repairs are completed, and we saw what happened last night when signal problems caused such massive delays and overcrowding that police temporarily closed New York Penn Station to commuters.”
“We’ve heard testimony and of course know all about the unacceptable conditions plaguing commuters, but now it’s time to get a first-hand, up-close look at what Amtrak and NJ Transit plan to do to fix this terrible situation,” said Assemblyman McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “We will be asking questions and expecting answers, and we will want a full and detailed explanation about what both these agencies plan to do to make things better with as little inconvenience as possible for commuters. It’s one thing to hear about the fixes that are planned for the Northeast Corridor, the tunnels and Penn Station, but it will be a great learning experience to actually see what they’re talking about. Commuters have rightly had enough, and if we’re going to make sure this gets better, we need all the facts.”
In addition to the two committee chairs, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Union), Senators M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) and Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth), and Assemblywoman Liz Muoio and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (both D-Mercer) will be joining Amtrak Executive Vice President Stephen J. Gardner and NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro for an on-train briefing, a view of the damaged Hudson River rail tunnel, and an explanatory tour of the sections of New York Penn Station where major repairs are planned this summer.
The New Jersey legislators, whose committees held a joint hearing on Amtrak’s plans on April 28 in Trenton, questioned Amtrak’s proposed plan to curtail NJ Transit rail service for up to 44 days between July 7 and August 28 for New York Penn Station track and signal repairs. Following the hearing, Amtrak President Wick Moorman invited the committee chairs to take a first-hand look at the proposed work.
While Amtrak, NJ Transit and the Long Island Railroad are continuing to negotiate the final work schedule, Amtrak’s preliminary plan called for continuous rail service curtailments, including weekday rush hours, from July 7 to July 25 and from August 4 to August 28.
Subsequent analysis and inquiries showed that Amtrak’s proposed repair plan, which calls for the closure of at least five tracks for repairs in August, would force NJ Transit to eliminate an estimated 25 percent of its commuter rail service to and from New York during the morning and evening rush, and that the impact on NJ Transit would not end with the planned September completion of repairs to the tracks used primarily by NJ Transit.
Just as Long Island Railroad service will be affected by the major repairs to the NJ Transit side of the station this summer, NJ Transit service will also suffer some curtailments from late February to early June in 2018 when the major Long Island Railroad track repairs are scheduled to be done.
“Clearly, we are learning that the scope of work needed to make up for years of deferred maintenance at this century-old station will cause continued delays, overcrowding and hardship for New Jersey rail commuters far beyond this summer,” said Senator Gordon. “We need to do everything we can to minimize the impact on commuters who have suffered through two months of seemingly non-stop misery. We will be looking for answers out of our meeting and inspection tour with Amtrak and NJ Transit officials tomorrow.”
“Amtrak and NJ Transit should be ready to provide detailed descriptions and explanations,” Assemblyman McKeon said. “I appreciate their cooperation, but this is a business trip, pure and simple. We need to get a first-hand look and a full briefing of what’s ahead for commuters, because the current situation is unacceptable and must be resolved with the least amount of stress for the working men and women of New Jersey.”