The new $51 billion 2020 – 2024 MTA Five Year Capital Plan provides $695 million which will complete the $1.5 billion funding package to pay for completion of construction to support Metro North New Haven branch new East Bronx service to Penn Station. Problem is that service may not start until 2024 or later.
Here is what elected officials, MTA and Metro North will never address. There is no room to run additional trains into or out of Penn Station during rush hours via the East River tunnels with connections to Queens. Three of four tunnels running inbound during the a.m. and outbound p.m. rush hours have very tight spacing between trains. One tunnel is shared by the LIRR, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak for reverse train movements with equally tight spacing during rush hours. This also includes limited platform capacity at Penn Station to accommodate any additional trains. Penn Station is currently operating at 100 percent capacity during hours.
The MTA is unable to run any Metro Metro North trains from the Bronx to access Penn Station until the LIRR begins service to Grand Central Terminal.
New Metro North service from the New Haven line must compete with LIRR, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak access to one of four East River tunnels along with platform space at Penn Station before being able to start service in 2024. All three agencies have their own plans for expanded rush hour services to Penn Station. This is why any proposed new services to Penn Station from the Bronx are challenging to initiate. Amtrak will not initiate major repairs and renovations to the East River tunnels as a result of major damages suffered from Super Storm Sandy in 2011 until 2024.
It will require one of two tunnels damaged by Super Storm Sandy in 2012 being out of service at a time for one to two years to support this work. The other two tunnels will need one year each for similar work. With only three of four tunnels available, there will be a reduction in Penn Station access and capacity. To preserve existing service, some LIRR rush hour trains will be canceled or combined. This would make it very difficult to add new services such as Bronx Metro North Access to Penn Station until work on all four tunnels is competed by 2030.