A transit desert no more, officials tout Bronx benefits of Penn Access Project at groundbreaking

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Existing rail lines in the Bronx and Westchester will be transformed as part of the Penn Access project.
Photo courtesy MTA

New York’s leading politicos were on hand in Hunts Point Friday for the groundbreaking of Metro-North’s $3.18 billion Penn Station Access Project, which includes the construction of four new Metro-North stations in Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City.

The stations are expected to open in 2027.

Penn Access will transform Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line from two to four tracks in the East Bronx and Westchester. The line will then connect the New Haven line in New Rochelle to the new Bronx Metro-North stations, before ending up at Penn Station.

A major benefit for Manhattan-bound Bronx commuters is that commutes through existing MTA lines to Penn Station that take an hour or longer will now be cut down significantly. According to MTA officials, average travel times will be reduced to 16 minutes from Hunts Point, 20 minutes from Parkchester, and 25-28 minutes from Morris Park and Co-op City stations.

Gov. Kathy Hochul noted that the project which has been in talks during the terms of four governors will eliminate a transit desert that has hamstrung the East Bronx for decades. There are almost 250,000 residents and more than 100,000 jobs within a half-mile of the four future Bronx stations, according to Hochul’s office.

“Communities that have been overlooked for far too long will finally get justice,” said Hochul. “We no longer have to say people of the Bronx will be relegated to a transit desert, and will have access to good-paying jobs.”

To facilitate the plans moving forward, Amtrak committed $500 million to the Metro-North project and the MTA will also commit up to $432 million to Amtrak’s initiative to rehabilitate the East River tunnels, which were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Amtrak owns the East River tunnels — which MTA’s Long Island Rail Road uses — as well as the stretch of tracks Metro-North plans to use for the Penn Access project.

The federal bipartisan infrastructure bill, signed into law last year, opened up the opportunity, as both projects can tap into $30 billion in federal funds allocated for Northeast rails.

The Metro-North trains are projected to run as frequently as every 20 minutes during peak times, according to Hochul’s office.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer brokered a deal between MTA and Amtrak, a breakthrough that paved the way for a design-build contract with Halmar International, LLC/RailWorks, J.V. At Friday’s press conference, Schumer noted the workforce benefit, which will bring roughly 40,000 construction jobs, will be catered to a Bronx workforce that has the city’s highest unemployment rate.

“New York City is building the next generation of our public train system that is going to help keep our city growing, attracting new people, new businesses,” said Schumer.

— Aliya Schneider contributed to this report.

This story was updated on Dec. 9 at 2:41 p.m.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.