Full Service Returns To Penn Station Following So-Called ‘Summer Of Hell’

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Regular service returned Tuesday for thousands of commuters following a two-month repair project at Penn Station dubbed the “summer of hell.”

NJ TRANSIT, Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak trains all resumed normal schedules.

For LIRR riders, that means an end to a 20 percent reduction in service while NJ TRANSIT commuters on the Morris and Essex lines will now no longer have to transfer to PATH trains at Hoboken.

“I’d give it an ‘A,'” said Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman. “We had a lot of work, we did it on time and we did it safely.”

There were a handful of delays on the LIRR Tuesday morning, but many customers were happy to see the trains return.

“Today was perfect,” passenger Peter Wagner told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris. “As a typical skeptical New Yorker, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

“Everything went fine,” another commuter told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria Tuesday morning.

“So far so good,” another woman told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

But for NJ TRANSIT commuter Sarde Wilson, who had to transfer to Hoboken all summer, the return of the old train schedule also comes skepticism.

“I have my fingers crossed for the improvement,” Wilson said. “It was very aggravating, very aggravating. They made appropriate accommodations so I’m appreciative of that, but I feel like there’s always something with transit so I’m a bit apprehensive to see how successful this transition is, frankly speaking.”

Amtrak wrapped up the extensive summertime track repair project on Thursday.

Predictions back in the spring, when the station had just gone through a series of major disruptions related to train derailments, couldn’t have been more dire. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said track closures and service reductions for the maintenance work would be a “potential crisis” and told rail riders to brace themselves for a “summer of hell.”

But now that the repairs have been completed and normal service is returning Tuesday, many riders say bracing for the “summer of hell” wasn’t so bad.

“I was expecting it to be much, much worse,” one commuter said. “Frankly, it’s hard for me to commute anyway, but it seemed to be fine.”

While others say they are beyond ready to get back to normal.

“Thank God it’s over,” said Hackensack resident John Romero. “I work at 7 a.m., I had to leave my house at 4 a.m. in order to get to work.”

Last week, Amtrak applauded their efforts and the work they’ve accomplished so far.

“In total, this team installed 897 track ties, laid 1,800 feet of rail — that’s six football fields worth of track,” said Amtrak engineer Gary Williams.

NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Steven Santoro thanked riders “for their patience and flexibility.”

“While many had to adjust their personal schedules, we tried to provide them with enough options and support to make the transition as smooth as possible,” he said.

Cuomo said the crisis he had warned about was averted “due to government response” and hard work.

Additional work will last through approximately June 2018, with most of it taking place on weekends resulting in minimal impacts to service or disruptions to customers. That work will include upgrading Penn Station restrooms and waiting areas.

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

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