| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 25 Down in a damp, cavernous space
beneath the western end of New York's Pennsylvania station,
national rail operator Amtrak showed on Thursday the three
tracks it will take offline for emergency repairs, outlining the
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the coming months will
be a "summer of agony" for commuters between the Empire State
and New Jersey along with those riding the entire northeast rail
corridor, Amtrak's busiest and most profitable route.
Penn Station, the nation's busiest transit hub, has suffered
derailments caused by decaying infrastructure, resulting in long
delays to cross the Hudson river and backing up traffic across
"It is literally crumbling," Cuomo said during a Wednesday
television appearance. "It's been underfunded for 50 years."
Fallout from those and other troubles has prompted calls for
change from governors and lawmakers of both states.
The focus of repairs is an area called "A Interlocking," the
most complex portion of the station. Here, at least 15 tracks
stretch into the North River tunnels toward New Jersey and the
Long Island Rail Road's West Side Yard, with even more tracks
crossing over and blending in.
While one track is slated to be repaired at first, two
adjoining tracks must also be taken offline, said Mike
DeCataldo, Amtrak's vice president of operations East. These two
tracks, among the Penn station's longest, are needed to bring in
materials and support services, he explained during a tour on
Amtrak will also replace dozens of switches, sections of
tracks that can be moved to allow oncoming trains to change
lanes. It is also replacing sections of steel tracks, rock
ballast and wood ties, some of which are encased in concrete.
"It's complicated. We recognize how much of an inconvenience
this is," DeCataldo said over the sound of clanging train bells,
the darkness punctured by red and green signal lights.
Two weeks ago, Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
together called for a private operator to take over the station,
which is owned by Amtrak and leased by NJ Transit and the Long
Island Rail Road.
Cuomo on Tuesday created a task force to study whether New
York State, a private operator, or the Port Authority of New
York and New Jersey should try to take over Penn Station.
New Jersey Democratic state senators blasted Cuomo's task
force because it was made up only of New York politicians and
developers. They said NJ Transit uses a large portion of the
station and should be considered an equal partner.
Amtrak hired private infrastructure firm HNTB Corp to help
with project management and technical services during the
Critics have said Amtrak should continue to limit work to
nights and weekends to displace fewer commuters, but DeCataldo
said it would take "years" to finish repairs that way.
"We tried to do this as rationally and responsibly as
possible," he said.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Daniel Bases and David