May 31, 2017 / 5:53 PM / 2 months ago

Amtrak's summer track repairs to lengthen some NJ commutes by 45 minutes

3 Min Read

NEWARK, N.J., May 31 (Reuters) - Commutes into Manhattan for thousands of NJ Transit rail passengers will likely be 30 to 45 minutes longer every morning this summer as Amtrak fixes tracks at New York's Pennsylvania Station, officials said on Wednesday.

The estimate is the first official glimpse of how much longer and more torturous commutes may be during what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has dubbed the "Summer of Agony," from July 10 through Sept. 1, as the busiest train station in the nation undergoes a massive repair program.

The work was originally scheduled to take years but was expedited after recent derailments and other problems left hundreds of thousands of commuters delayed throughout the greater New York City area because of decaying infrastructure.

Amtrak owns Penn Station and the rails and leases them to commuter lines operated by NJ Transit and the Long Island Rail Road.

Instead of being able to take a one-seat ride on NJ Transit's popular Morris & Essex Midtown Direct Line into New York this summer, about 7,400 customers will be diverted to Hoboken every weekday morning, NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro told a legislative hearing in Newark.

From Hoboken, passengers who take light rail into New York will face up to 30 minute longer commutes. Those who take ferries will need another 45 minutes to get to Manhattan, depending on where they land, Santoro said.

As a sweetener, those commuters will get fare cuts ranging from 56 percent to 63 percent, and tickets will be will cross-honored. The reductions will cost NJ Transit an estimated $15 million in lost revenues, Santoro said.

Those delays do not include customers impacted by Amtrak's own train cancellations, announced on Tuesday, or other ripple effects through Penn Station.

State lawmakers grilled Amtrak and NJ Transit officials about their apparent lack of communication with each other and local mayors, and about the impact of the lost revenues.

Santoro suggested NJ Transit may ask Amtrak to make up the lost $15 million or take possible legal action to recover it.

"We're leaving all of our legal options open," he said.

Stephen Gardner, Amtrak's executive vice president for planning, said Amtrak did not plan to pick up the tab and that costs would be absorbed by all the carriers.

"We haven't had conversations with NJ Transit about this," he said. "It's not something we've discussed."

Reporting by Hilary Russ in Newark; Editing by Dan Grebler

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