Even on a good day, New York City’s Pennsylvania Station barely works. And with a massive summer repair project beginning Monday at the nation’s busiest train station, commuters across the region are bracing for what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has dubbed the “summer of hell.”
After several recent train derailments, major track repairs at Penn Station are scheduled for the next two months. That means a 20 percent reduction in the number of trains from New Jersey and Long Island, leaving tens of thousands of commuters looking for alternative routes into Manhattan. Amtrak is also reducing train service between New York and Washington.
Amtrak, which operates the station, had been planning to make repairs to tracks and switches over the next several years. But Amtrak decided to accelerate that timetable after two minor derailments in the spring that led to major delays for travelers.
Even when it’s complete, this summer’s repair work will do little to alleviate overcrowding at Penn Station. About 600,000 commuters crowd into narrow corridors and stairways every weekday in what is essentially the basement of Madison Square Garden. The vast majority are commuters riding New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad.
The aging tracks at Penn Station are just one piece of New York’s crumbling transportation infrastructure. The rail tunnels under the Hudson River, which connect Manhattan to New Jersey and the rest of the country, are more than 100 years old and were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The New York City subway system is under a state-of-emergency order.