Commuters Bracing For Major Penn Station Repair Work Set To Begin Monday

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A massive two-month repair project is set to begin at Penn Station on Monday, temporarily exacerbating the daily commuting struggle during what Gov. Andrew Cuomo has predicted will be a “summer of hell.”

As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, the countdown to total commuter confusion was in full swing Friday night, as were 30 minute delays, and in some cases complete cancellations thanks to mechanical problems and a broken switch.

“It’s been horrific across the board,” John Brodsky said.

The problems are par for the course, and may only be a preview of what’s to come starting Monday.

The accelerated repair work, prompted by two derailments this spring, will close some of the station’s 21 tracks and require a roughly 20 percent reduction in the number of commuter trains coming in from New Jersey and Long Island.

EXTRA: Penn Station Repairs: What You Need To Know

For Long Island Rail Road riders, every peak train that makes it to 34th Street will have two additional cars to combat overcrowding. Riders diverted to Atlantic Terminal and Hunterspoint Avenue can jump on the subway or a ferry across the East River.

New York Waterways is cross-honoring tickets for ferry service to the west side.

“I’ll try the ferry,” South Orange resident Susan Jennings told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris. “That was what I liked when they had the last derailment. That was kinda pleasant, despite it all.”

Construction crews at the Glen Clove Ferry Terminal are in a mad dash to complete work. LIRR customers are offered a trip from there to 34th Street or Wall Street. 

“I think it’s great,” one resident told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “I think we’ve been waiting for it. They invested $60 million in building this place a couple years ago, waiting for a ferry to come and here we got it.”

Commuters can also opt for a ride on one of the 200 coach buses leaving from eight park and ride locations, landing in Midtown.

MTA Interim Director Ronnie Hakim is asking for patience and flexibility.

“We know this is going to be a tough couple of months,” she said. 

Amtrak Chief Operating Officer, Scott Napartsek told CBS2’s Dave Carlin that the infrastructure needs immediate, intensive fixing.

“It isn’t what anybody who provides transportation service wants to do to a customer,” he said.

Napartsek also told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell that he prefers the phrase “summer of renewal.”

“I think the first thing — if I’m a commuter — to expect is I’ve got to figure out what my new logistic is,” he added. 

Commuters crossing the Hudson River on NJ TRANSIT will also see major changes, with two lines making their last stop at Hoboken.

“There’s lots of moving parts to this plan,” NJ TRANSIT  Spokesman Charles Engolia told WCBS 880’s Marl Diamond. “When you get off at Hoboken, you can take a bus, you can take a ferry, you can take PATH. Your ticket’s good for that. You want to know where those are, you want to know those schedules.”

Taking PATH will add at least 30 minutes to the commute while a New York Waterway ferry will add 45 minutes. Riders with NJ TRANSIT tickets can access both or a bus with no extra cost.

Amtrak also is reducing the number of trains it runs between New York and Washington and diverting some trains from Albany across town to Grand Central Terminal.

“We’re all dreading it,” said Maura McGloin, who commutes daily from Woodbridge, New Jersey. “I’d rather have my teeth pulled out.”

“More chaos, more congestion, confusion,” said Great Neck resident Hanna Zaraetsky.

Some commuters said they plan to hop in their cars.

“It will be more difficult, more time consuming, might think about driving in,” Linda Setzer said.

That will jam the roads, bridges, and tunnels even more.

“It’s gonna be hammer time. We’ve heard the phrase ‘car-pocalypse’ before to describe situations of excess traffic due to whatever reason, I think that term could be applied to what we’re going to be seeing,” AAA’s Robert Sinclair said.

Cuomo said in May that “it will be a summer of hell for commuters.” Around the same time, he wrote a letter to President Donald Trump asking for federal help and appealing to Trump’s New York roots.

Amtrak owns and operates the station, as well as surrounding tracks and equipment. NJ TRANSIT and the LIRR have used Twitter to pin blame for delays on the government-owned railroad.

This spring, two minor derailments at the station caused major headaches. One, caused by aging ties that allowed a track to split apart, closed eight tracks and disrupted service between Boston and Washington for four days.

During a separate hours-long delay caused by a disabled train, police shocked an unruly person with a stun gun, leading to a stampede over fears of a shooting.

On Thursday night, there was another minor derailment at the station. No injuries were reported.

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

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