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Penn Station Commuters Will Face Another Service Outage Next Year: Amtrak

 Travelers raced to make their departing trains at Penn Station on July 2, 2013. 
Travelers raced to make their departing trains at Penn Station on July 2, 2013. 
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DNAinfo/Michael Ip

MIDTOWN — The hell isn't over yet, Penn Station commuters.

Planned infrastructure repairs at the station — which are expected to take place for nearly three weeks in July and three weeks in August — have been extended to include another prolonged service outage next year, Amtrak president and CEO Wick Moorman said at a public hearing Thursday morning.

“Our projection now is that we will have to do one more outage next year, that we project will be shorter in duration than either of the two this summer,” Moorman told a panel of elected officials.

Amtrak hasn’t yet scheduled that outage, and will continue to carry out renewal work on the weekends “until mid-next year,” he added.

Moorman’s testimony came a week after news outlets obtained a preliminary plan outlining Amtrak’s tentative response to recent delays and derailments at the station.

The plan said the rail service would be closing “at least two tracks at a time,” during the two outages this summer, but Moorman on Thursday said the agency was still working with Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit on the specifics of the closures.

Passengers will be given more than a month's notice prior to the beginning of the first outage in July, and the agency is planning to upgrade its text notification system before the service disruptions start, Moorman reassured the panel.

Work that causes the greatest disruptions will be done overnight, and at least 75 percent of the trains that pass through the station will continue operating, he added.

“What I think people need least of all is unplanned disruptions, because then it’s just chaotic,” he said. “At least we’re going to give folks a lot of warning so they can plan their lives for those periods.”

Amtrak plans to refurbish the interiors of its cars and fix its PA systems, “hopefully over the next 18 months,” Moorman said.

The rail service also plans to create an entity that brings in “private expertise” to improve the station and its customer service, he said.

Questioned as to why Amtrak couldn’t carry out work over Fourth of July weekend and Labor Day weekend, Wick said it would be difficult to get enough employees to work over the holidays.

Holiday weekends are “busier periods than normal for LIRR,” he added.

Following the hearing, state Sen. Todd Kaminsky said he was “extremely disappointed and alarmed” by Amtrak’s testimony.

Even without the outages, passengers have been dealing with delays and overcrowding, he said.

“The plans for the summer are going to drive my constituents crazy — they are living a nightmare,” he said. “This is not an inconvenience — this has become something that turns their life upside down.”