Letter: The Amtrak, Metro-North dispute over the Penn Access project is more of the same

MTA, subway
The cost of the Metro-North Bronx Penn Station Access project has grown from $600 million to $3.1 billion over the last 20 years.
Photo Adrian Childress

To the Editor,

The article “Dispute between MTA, Amtrak could delay Penn Access megaproject bringing Metro-North to west side” is nothing new. The same issues resulted in the MTA Long Island Rail Road East Side Access to Grand Central Madison completion being delayed a year and the cost increasing by $1 billion.

Why did the Metro-North Bronx East Penn Station Access project costs grow from $600 million 20 years ago to $3.1 billion today? What is the cost for borrowing, hidden under the MTA operating agency budget to help project financing?

It was always questionable if Amtrak could provide sufficient track outages and force account support (Amtrak employees) to meet this aggressive schedule for completion by 2027. Amtrak is responsible for $1 billion of the $3.1 billion scope of work. Amtrak resources are also committed to other projects along the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston for years to come. Three of these in Metro New York include the $1.6 billion for New Jersey’s Northeast Corridor Portal Bridge, $16.8 billion Gateway Tunnel Hudson Project and $1.6 billion LIRR East River Tunnel projects. Metro-North has competing resource needs within its own annual capital and maintenance programs.

Only a review by an independent engineer for both Amtrak and Metro-North’s 2023 annual Master Force Account and Track Outage Plans can validate that both agencies have the resources to support this project. Ditto for the project construction schedule. The schedule provides the weekly, monthly and yearly detailed internal construction project interim milestones that justify the promised original 2027 completion date.

Over the next few years, the project completion date will slip even more. The budget will increase as construction contractors submit delay claims for insufficient and timely track access necessary to perform required work. Don’t be surprised waiting until 2028 or 2029 to ride Metro-North to Penn Station.

Larry Penner