Better transportation options may lie ahead in a plan that will likely introduce Metro North rail service to Penn Station by 2016 that could include the construction of four new stations in the borough.
The MTA is currently performing a Federal Environmental Assessment on the project that would bring its trains on the Hudson and New Haven lines into Penn Station, via existing tracks over the Hells Gate Bridge owned by Amtrak, said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.
“The review includes potential stations along Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line in the vicinity of Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point, and we anticipate completing this assessment in 2013,” Donovan said.
A meeting was convened in Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office on Monday, November 7 on the matter. All elected officials from areas that the MTA is considering placing new stations and community boards 2, 9, 10, and 11 were invited.
The group met with the president of Metro North, Howard Permut, to discuss the plan, which received a great deal of support, said Diaz spokesman John DeSio.
“This is an idea that has been around for decades, and the meeting was just a preliminary step where the MTA wanted to gauge the reaction of elected officials and stakeholders, with the reaction being very positive,” DeSio said.
The final plan could include the creation of new stations along Metro North’s New Haven line that would service Co-op City near Erskine Place, Morris Park near Einstein Medical Center and the Hutchinson Metro Center, Parkchester in the vicinity of Unionport Road and E. Tremont Avenue, and Hunts Point near Southern Boulevard, said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.
Space for the extra trains coming into Penn Station from the new stations should be available in 2016, after Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access Plan re-routes many of the trains currently terminating at Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal, Benedetto said.
“They do expect this to happen, and therefore they want to start planning now so things are ready when space is freed up in Penn Station,” Benedetto said.
The public should not expect new Metro North stations in the Bronx in the next couple of years, even though construction theoretically could begin on the four new Bronx stations before space becomes available at Penn Station, Benedetto said.
A Metro North Station in Co-op City would greatly reduce the commuting times for residents, said Vernon Cooper, Riverbay Corporation general manager.
“Although there are several challenges that must be overcome in order to make this project a reality, a new train station in Co-op City would enable commuters to get to Penn Station within 25 minutes, which is very welcome news to many residents of this great community,” Cooper said. “We would like to thank Borough President Diaz and the representatives of the MTA Metro North for their efforts to make this project a reality, and although it is not yet a done deal, the prospect is very promising, with tremendous advantages for our community.”
The funding for the project, $250 million from New York State and $100 million from Connecticut, is substantial given these difficult economic times, but would provide a great amount of return, and is relatively inexpensive compared to other MTA capital projects, said Assemblyman Marcos Crespo.
A Hunts Point stop could encourage businesses to relocate to the area, while at the same time connecting potential employees to jobs in other cities like White Plains, New York and Stamford, Connecticut, Crespo said.
The project is long overdue because for far too many years Metro North has run through the Bronx but provided limited service for borough commuters, said Councilman Jimmy Vacca.
“I was encouraged that the Metro North people came to the meeting with a will to do it, and now we have to find a way, and that way has to revolve around money and resources,” Vacca said.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393