The Penn Station Access Project, which aims to bring the Metro-North Railroad (the major commuter railroad serving the Hudson Valley and parts of western Connecticut) to Penn Station has now been delayed until further notice. The $2.8 Billion project was formally launched in Jan. of 2022, with major construction on the project began in Dec. of 2022. According to MTA Capital Construction Project chairman Jamie Torres-Springer, the effort is already ‘potentially behind schedule by at least six to nine months’ due to ‘difficulties in getting support from Amtrak.’
Expectations are still high. According to the New York State Governor’s office, the new line is expected to cut commute times for upstate New York and Connecticut residents by over an hour and 15 minutes from the current system setup which runs only through Grand Central Terminal.
This provides commuters with easy access to the east side of Manhattan, but not the West Side. To accomplish this, the project plans to add four new stops in the Bronx before terminating at Penn Station. Beyond transit benefits, the Governor’s office also claims Penn Station Access will benefit local educational facilities, medical establishments, and retail areas. Overall, by greatly cutting down on travel time, Penn Station Access is anticipated to make public transportation more attractive. This would result in reduced traffic congestion, and emissions from less people driving.
The holdup stems from the fact that much of the construction work for the project is set to take place along the dilapidated Hell Gate rail line, stretching from Westchester County to Queens, currently owned and operated by Amtrak (and south of Sunnyside, Queens, by CSX Transportation). The project plans on repairing over twenty miles of track and rebuilding several structurally deficient bridges on the line. However, according to Torres-Springer, in order for the project to move forward, Amtrak needs to allow MTA engineers and construction workers access to its tracks, which has been denied.
The MTA claimed that it had an agreement with Amtrak detailing all the sections of track which failed, and all of the labor that was required to finish the project. As MTA CEO Janno Lieber has said, to build the project is, “…a risk right now… Because they haven’t been able to give these overnight and weekend outages.” Torres-Springer added, “[Communication issues] have cost us hundreds of millions of dollars over the budget due to difficulties getting support from Amtrak.”
It is unclear what the future holds for Penn Station Access, but as it currently stands, it is scheduled to be completed by the Fall of 2027, assuming there are no further delays or disagreements.