Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it no secret that he doubts Amtrak's ability to complete emergency repair work at Penn Station in a timely fashion this summer. And while Amtrak has rebuffed the governor's public offer to step in and take over, Cuomo inserted himself into the process this morning with a pledge to speed up bridge and tunnel repairs by early July. More commuters will ditch the train for a car during the eight-plus weeks of work, the logic goes. If bridge and tunnel work is out of the way by then, drivers will be less bottlenecked.
"Our top priority is ensuring all New Yorkers can get where they need to go as quickly and easily as possible this summer and we're taking every conceivable step to prepare for Amtrak's summer of hell," Governor Cuomo stated Monday. "By aggressively expediting construction we are taking action to ease commutes and provide New Yorkers with peace of mind."
The statement prompted quick backlash from transit advocates, who have long criticized Governor Cuomo's underinvestment in the decaying subway system. Some have made the case that Cuomo's investments in highways, tunnels and bridges encourage more driving, and should take a back seat. Cuomo's $500 million investment in cashless tolls, for example, raised eyebrows at an MTA Board meeting last fall.
These two tweets look great in immediate succession pic.twitter.com/sckhKrtIBf
— Jason Rabinowitz (@AirlineFlyer) June 12, 2017
I would love to hear Cuomo explain how expedited road work will help those of us who do not own cars, and rely on transit.
— (((Jeremy Posner))) (@jmp_nyc) June 12, 2017
Ongoing construction work on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, Queens-Midtown Tunnel, Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, and Hugh L. Carry Tunnel will be complete by July 8th, according to the Governor's Office, in collaboration with the MTA and State Department of Transportation.
Verrazano Narrows Bridge: Cashless tolling to be complete by July 8th, moved up from November 30th; new Brooklyn-bound lane for buses and high-occupancy vehicles by June 19th, up from November 30th, increasing road capacity by 16 percent, according to the State.
Queens-Midtown Tunnel: North tube construction accelerated from August 31st to July 8th, with both tubes open during daytime hours; second of two downtown Manhattan exit ramps will reopen, having been closed since last September.
Robert F. Kennedy Bridge: Cashless tolling; new 125th Street Manhattan on-bound ramp to RFK Bridge (one of two lanes has been closed since last February); complete construction of Queens-to-Manhattan ramp; complete construction of Queens and Bronx-bound plaza; complete demolition of Bronx and Manhattan toll plazas, up form an initial September 30th completion date.
Hugh L. Carey Tunnel: Completion of three outbound lanes from lower Manhattan.
Expectations on service disruption during the scheduled July 10th-through-September 1st Penn Station repairs have varied, ranging between 20 and 25 percent reductions in service during peak hours.
Penn Station is already bursting at the seams, with 600,000 daily passengers—more than triple the station's intended capacity, according to the Governor's Office. The planned repair work will take three of the station's 21 tracks out of commission for weeks at a time. That's 14 percent of the total tracks, and 19 percent of the 16 tracks that serve NJ Transit and Amtrak.
Two disgruntled Amtrak passengers from Long Island are suing the MTA, the LIRR and New York City Transit—alleging negligence for the amount of emotional distress they've endured at the disaster-prone transit hub.