MIDTOWN — A plan to close several train tracks at Penn Station during weekday hours for repairs this summer will force rail schedules to change and could cause commuter chaos at the busy transit hub.
Amtrak had originally planned to repair and replace infrastructure at Penn Station on weekends over the course of two to three years, its president and CEO Wick Moorman said Thursday.
But in light of the recent train derailments and delays at the station, the rail service plans to expedite that work, Moorman told reporters.
“The events of the past month have shown that we just have to step up our game there,” he said. “We’re going to begin [work] this summer, and we expect the majority of work to be done this summer.”
While much of the work will be carried out on weekends as originally planned, “some tracks” will be closed on “some weekdays,” and train schedules will change, Moorman said.
He declined several times to say how many or which tracks the repairs would affect, noting the agency would have more specifics following its meeting with NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road officials next week.
An Amtrak spokeswoman later confirmed that the repairs could affect NJ Transit and LIRR trains.
“It is our goal to cause the least amount of disruption in the station that we can. It doesn’t mean that there are going to be lots of tracks closed every weekday for extended periods of time,” he said.
“It’s our intention to try to schedule this so that even in the longer outages… we try to minimize the number of platforms that are not available,” he added.
The work will include several major infrastructure repair projects slated to start in May and continue into the fall, Amtrak said in a release.
The rail company also plans to address crowding on Penn Station’s concourses and put together a task force to address safety and security concerns.
Amtrak also brought in former MTA CEO and chairman Tom Prendergast to review passenger movement throughout the station.
Money for the repairs will come from a 2018 fiscal year budget Amtrak plans to submit after President Trump releases his own budget next month, said Moorman, who anticipated the renewal efforts would ultimately cost “some tens of millions of dollars.”
Some of the technology upgrades the rail service had planned — like improving “user interfaces” on the platforms — will be deferred to make up for the expenses, he added.
Amtrak heard the public's call to “step up and do a better job,” Moorman noted.
“We understand the frustration. We are responding to that frustration,” he said. “I think we have an aggressive program here, but it’s the right program for all of the users of Penn Station."