Some NJ Lawmakers Speaking Out Against Proposed Amtrak Penn Station Repair Plan

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Some New Jersey lawmakers are speaking out against a proposed Amtrak repair plan that could impact Penn Station service for weeks this summer.

Commuters would face delays this summer due to track work around Penn Station, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The document describes work scheduled between July 7 and July 25 and again between Aug. 4 and Aug. 28 as causing “significant service impacts” and requiring service adjustments.

Those service changes weren’t specified, and the plan is not final. Last week Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman said negotiations would continue this week with the Long Island Rail Road and NJ TRANSIT.

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

The work was originally slated to be done gradually over two to three years, but Amtrak accelerated their plan because aging equipment has been blamed for recent delays and problems.

News of the new tentative plan came as U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer’s office said an agreement has been reached in Congress to boost funding for Amtrak to $1.495 billion for the coming fiscal year, a $105 million increase over last year and the highest total since 2010.

A $328 million grant would go toward the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C., which includes Penn Station.

Schumer called the funding “a huge win for commuters in the region.”

“I’ve already spoken to Amtrak and made it clear, these extra dollars should be used to quickly make the necessary repairs to tracks in and out of Penn Station and advance the critically important Gateway project,” he said.

But even with the infusion of funds, some New Jersey legislators on Tuesday criticized the plan for not taking advantage of the July 4th and Labor Day weekends to minimize the impact on commuters.

“What we are told, the disruptions will be comparable to what we saw a few weeks ago,” said State Sen. Robert Gordon. “‘Substantial’ turned people’s lives upside down and we were very disappointed to hear this.”

“I hope this is Amtrak’s first cut because it’s unacceptable,” Assemblyman John McKeon said. “There’s better ways that they can lessen the pain to the commuter.”

Gordon wants a full contingency plan. He has proposed relying more on buses to take people to ferries rather than sit in traffic at the tunnels.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said meetings were held Monday with representatives of the LIRR and NJ TRANSIT and the parties would reconvene Thursday to review the plan.

“All groups are working with the common goal of creating service schedules that minimize impact on the traveling public when we do the necessary upgrades to Penn Station,” spokeswoman Christina Leeds said in an email.

Web Extra: Full Statement From NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Steve Santoro

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the LIRR, said it was in discussions with Amtrak and would ensure riders’ best interests are represented.

NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Steve Santoro said his planning team was trying to determine the scope of the work and its impact on service and customers.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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