NY Gov. Says LIRR Riders Are In For 'Summer Of Hell'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York and New Jersey’s governors provided new details Tuesday about how repairs at Penn Station will affect commuters this summer.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced an agreement has been reached between Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT, which limits the impact on riders.

“For three quarters of the NJ TRANSIT customers, travel patterns will not be modified in any way,” he said.

Only the Morris and Essex Line’s Midtown Direct service will be affected by the work from July through Labor Day, Christie announced Tuesday afternoon. Those lines will end in Hoboken.

Rates for riders on the Morris and Essex lines will be reduced by about half, Christie said. PATH trains and ferries will honor NJ Transit fares.

“These fare reductions, in my view, are absolutely necessary to help to compensate for Amtrak’s failings,” the governor said.

Riders on other lines should not expect significant delays, Christie said.

“I’m not happy about any of this but the fact of the matter is we’re going to either make these repairs now or we’re going to make them later, but the repairs need to be made,” the governor said.

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Amtrak told him it will reduce LIRR rush hour trains by 20 percent.

A source told CBS2 some of those affected trains will be cancelled, while others will stop outside the city at Jamaica, Atlantic Avenue and Hunter’s Point.

“If you reduce trains coming into Penn by 20 percent, it will be a summer of hell,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said some will crowd into already over-taxed subways, others will drive. He’s appointed a task force to come up with new ways to avoid “Carmaggeddon,” CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported.

Those new possible solutions include a new park and ride facility along the Long Island Expressway, no tolls for park and ride participants, free buses from Nassau and Suffolk counties, high speed ferries and new HOV restrictions.

“We have to do something,” Cuomo said.

The governor went even further, suggesting that Amtrak and President Donald Trump turn Penn Station over to him to fix, renovate and run.

“This is not about politics. It’s not about partisanship,” Cuomo said.

“I don’t drive,” Port Jefferson resident Adelle Glimm told Kramer, adding she’ll be stuck with whatever the trains are doing.

“I’ll have to drive. It’s not going to be fun, I’m not into it,” Will Nestoer, of Northport, said. Turns my commute from an hour and a half to four hours.”

“For $300 a month, it’s awful service.” Ira Checkla, of Jerico, added.

Cuomo also wants to fix the subways at the same time, offering three “genius grants” at $1 million each for new ways to run more trains and modernize cars.

One critic told Kramer it’s a “joke” to think a $1 million contest can fix the subway. 

Earlier Tuesday, Amtrak said it plans to bring in an outside firm and more staff members to help with its summer track repairs at Penn Station.

President and CEO Wick Moorman said in a statement Tuesday the agency will work with HNTB Corporation, a national infrastructure solutions firm, to assist with “project management” and “technical services.”

“Amtrak is taking every step to ensure that we accomplish this work on schedule over the summer. Bringing in a leading design and engineering firm with project experience on the Northeast Corridor will help provide additional expertise to our in-house team and an independent view of our progress,” the statement read in part.

Moorman also said the agency will increase its workforce.

“It will be all hands on deck as we undertake these major renewal projects. We are going to do all we can to get this work done quickly and to minimize disruptions to passengers,” the statement continued.

Later Tuesday, Amtrak released another statement, defending its plans for summer repairs, saying it has opted to “skip band-aid fixes and address reliability concerns head on.”

“There are plenty of reasons why we reached this situation at Penn Station, but we are now taking the concrete steps, with funds we already have, required to fix it. The important thing for Amtrak now is that we exert the leadership and focus needed to improve the station’s infrastructure over the summer and do what is necessary to achieve our common goal – ensuring that passengers will no longer be traveling on aging infrastructure or worrying about when they will get to or from their destinations,” the statement read in part.

Multiple derailments over the last several weeks, power failures, signal problems and other issues at Penn Station have pushed Amtrak to begin replacing aging tracks and other equipment at the station.

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

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