Amtrak Says Penn Station Repairs ‘A Little Bit Ahead Of Schedule’

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Amtrak said it is making good progress as the first week of the dreaded “Summer of Hell” repair work at Penn Station wraps up.

This week’s work included switch replacement, removing an old rail and a third rail, and getting the tracks ready for more work.

“We are at to a little bit ahead of schedule at this point,” Amtrak COO Scot Naparstek said, but cautioned that it’s too soon say whether the project could be finished early. “Certainly if we continue it the way we do, and things appear that they could get better, that would be great, but I think at this point it’s too soon to worry about that.”

The project is scheduled to be completed Sept. 1.

“We plan, we expect and it is my job to deliver that station to full service during the Labor Day period,” Naparstek said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is keeping a close eye on the situation.

“It certainly seems to be going a little better than expected, and that’s a very good thing,” de Blasio said during his weekly appearance on the “Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC. “We know we got a lot more work to do in terms of improving mass transit in the city, but at least these last few days have been better than I think we feared.”

Long Island Rail Road riders planned for the worst as  the repair work got underway Monday and many said they were pleasantly surprised to see there were no major problems.

Commuters adjusted their schedules, woke up earlier and so far it seems Plan B is working.

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“I’m getting a seat; I can’t really complain,” Michelle from Hicksville said, adding that dire warnings motivated her to take the 6:11 a.m. train instead of waiting for the 7 a.m. “And if you tell people the worse case scenario, if it’s slightly better, then you know what, it’s not so bad.”

“Perfect, I had no problems at all,” one rider said.

“It hasn’t been bad, I was surprised. The trains have been on time, not crowded,” another rider said.

“I had some concerns, wanted to see what was happening, but the trains that I use they haven’t changed them so I’ve been able to use them and everything’s gone very smoothly,” Chris Smith of Plainview said.

Rockville Centre Bishop John Barres has been posting daily one-minute spiritual messages on a video-blog, offering prayers to commuters.

Some riders suspect people took the week off or worked from home, so they are waiting to see what week two brings.

Ridership was so low in some park and ride locations that MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announced they’d get rid of them by next week. Traffic on the ferries was also light.

Trains that leave after 6:30 a.m. now end at Atlantic Terminal and Jamaica Station but riders say the transfer has been smooth.

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