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Cuomo asks Trump for emergency funds for Penn Station

Two recent derailments at Penn Station stemmed from a wide gauge track condition.
Photo – Amtrak

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo yesterday asked President Donald Trump to provide emergency funding to address the "state of disrepair" at Penn Station.

In a letter to the president, Cuomo asked for federal assistance for short-term construction and transportation alternatives, and facilitation of a long-term solution to problems at the New York City station.

Penn Station operator Amtrak recently announced it will perform emergency repairs on the station's tracks to address chronic problems. The work will require the Amtrak to reduce service at the station for about six weeks in July and August. About 600,000 passengers flow in and out of the station daily.

"It is projected that this cut could result in an approximately 20 percent reduction in its peak hours of service for commuters who depend on this service every day," Cuomo wrote. "This reduced capacity will create a domino effect. We will see increased delays at surrounding regional transit systems, and our infrastructure will be stretched to its limits as they absorb a high volume of citizens in search of alternate routes. "

The planned service cut created a "short-term crisis and dramatically exposed the system's chronic problems," the governor added.

Cuomo said his administration is open to working with the federal government on all short-term options. Currently under study is the operation of a new advanced park-and-ride system on Long Island, with private coaches and a bus-only HOV lane.

"The possibility of high speed ferries from Long Island is also being considered. The point being, we are open to creative solutions," the letter stated.

Cuomo added that Amtrak's operation of Penn Station is not "sustainable or wise" over the long term. He suggested that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey take over the station and include it in the construction of a new Hudson River tunnel system as part of Amtrak's Gateway program.

"At a minimum, I believe Amtrak should turn over construction and operations to a private sector terminal operator because all the past experience has suggested that Amtrak does not have the funds and expertise to consistently invest and manage over the ‎long-term Penn Station's complex combination of track infrastructure and terminal operation," Cuomo wrote.

While Penn Station's critical situation isn't a natural disaster, it is an emergency "that will affect as many people and businesses with dire consequences," stated the letter.

"As a New Yorker, I think you know the severity of the situation and you know that if the state has the financial and operating support, we will get the job done," Cuomo concluded.

Earlier this month, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman told a New York Assembly committee that, in addition to making emergency track repairs, the railroad will create a "concourse development" entity to unify the concourses operations and management. The entity will seek private-sector partners to handle and improve the station's operations and maintenance.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/22/2017