It appears LIRR and NJ Transit commuters won't get a break from some of the madness that's plagued Penn Station of late—Amtrak says this summer they'll have to shut down some of the tracks under Penn Station for major repairs. And though hopefully that'll prevent derailments and other track-related problems in the future, it means commuters will likely still have to suffer more delays for an unspecified period of time.
Earlier this week, Amtrak officials said they were mulling shutting down some tracks under the station for a significant overhaul following a long string of incidents—derailments, power problems, signal problems, etc.—exacerbated by the station's decaying and overworked infrastructure. Today, they confirmed they would close several tracks this summer, though as the NY Times notes, it's not clear how many or for how long. Meanwhile, commuters can expect some disruption.
"We expect the majority of the work to be done this summer," Amtrak’s chief executive, Charles W. Moorman said in a press conference call this morning. "That work will stretch on past the summer, but it is our anticipation right now that the work after the summer, will for the most part if not all be done during weekend hours. But this summer we will have weekday outages."
Amtrak says that while they've tried to mitigate commuter disruption in the past, the sheer number of problems at the station over the last month has prompted more significant action. Indeed, it's been a rollercoaster: an Amtrak derailment in March caused widespread delays for commuters, and in April there have been a slew of delays, cancellations, and overcrowding thanks to derailments, stalled trains, and power outages. Just this morning, LIRR riders had to deal with delays thanks to a Penn Station "track defect." "It’s been bad all month," one commuter told CBS 2. "There’s been nights it took me three hours to get home."
The bad news is, things are going to get worse before they get better, and it's not clear how long that will be the case. "It is our goal to cause the least amount of disruption in that station that we can," Moorman said. “There are going to be some tracks closed during some weekdays. It doesn’t mean that there are going to be lots of tracks closed every weekday for extended periods of time, and part of our goal is to make sure that we minimize that."
About 600,000 passengers come through Penn Station on an average weekday, headed to and from destinations in New Jersey, Long Island, upstate New York and beyond, with multiple railroad companies sharing just 21 tracks. The station was built to accommodate 200,000 passengers per day.