NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Lawmakers in Westchester County and the Bronx are joining forces to turn up the heat on Amtrak.
They’re accusing the railroad is needlessly delaying a major expansion of Metro-North service into the Bronx, including the creation of four brand new stations.
A site just behind Co-op City is on Metro-North list new train station locations.
It would tie into the MTA’s “East Side Access” project – giving New Haven line commuters a direct route to Penn Station and easy access to Manhattan’s west side.
“This is kind of in the middle of nowhere! So it’d be helpful,” one commuter told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.
When the project is finished, the MTA train ride from Penn to Co-op City would be about 30 minutes. That’s 45 minutes less than the current trip by bus.
“It will provide benefits in both directions,” Westchester executive George Latimer said.
Local leaders however, fear Amtrak is derailing the process.
“Every single time Metro-North and the MTA is ready to move forward and sign the agreement, they (Amtrak) continue to push the goal posts backwards,” Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. claims.
Diaz alleges that Amtrak is not negotiating in good faith.
The borough president says the railroad is demanding that MTA help pay to fix a nearby railroad bridge and others that carry tracks owned by Amtrak.
“We’ve seen this movie before, where there’s delay, delay, delay, and then it costs more!” Diaz explained.
Amtrak claims it’s not being difficult – it’s being careful – and evaluating how the Metro-North expansion would impact its own plans to increase Acela and other services on area tracks.
Critics warn if the company doesn’t get serious about reaching a deal costs will skyrocket and everyone will blame Amtrak.
The MTA says most of the money for building the new Bronx stations is already in the capital plan. If they can work things out with Amtrak, new train service could be just four or five years away.