Letter: Metro-North Penn Station Access still not a done deal

A Metro-North train at Grand Central station.
File photo
To the Editor,
MTA and Amtrak still need to reach a final agreement concerning the scope of work, track outages and Amtrak Force Account support to advance the project. Amtrak wants the MTA to pay for related work on the same corridor. The MTA believes that Amtrak should be paying for these improvements out of their own Capital Plan. The MTA promised to initiate service within one year after the Long Island Rail Road initiated service into Grand Central Terminal. The $11.2 billion LIRR Eastside Access project to Grand Central terminal is forecast for December 2022. Metro-North previously promised start of service into Penn Station in December 2023. This has now been delayed until December 2025.
Claims that this project will save Bronx commuters up to 50 minutes lack detailed justification. The same holds true for 33,000 anticipated riders. In our new post COVID-19 world, Metro-North needs to reevaluate anticipated future ridership growth projections. More people are going to telecommute from home on a part- to full-time basis.   

The anticipated final cost will never be known until completion. Costs will be further refined by award of construction contracts followed by change orders due to unforeseen site conditions or last minute changes in scope to contracts during construction. Coordination will be needed between various contractors, Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, MTA Office of Capital Construction (LIRR Eastside Access project) and NJ Transit. Another contract for hiring a construction management firm will be required to support coordination effort. The existing Metro-North fleet will have to be expanded to support this new service to Penn Station.   
Will Amtrak be able to provide sufficient track outages and force account support (Amtrak employees) to meet this aggressive schedule? Will Metro North be able to provide sufficient force account to do the same? Will there be any need for Metro-North to combine or cancel trains on the New Haven line to support this project? Can construction be completed in less than three years? Time will tell.
Larry Penner

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