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Amtrak Awards Contract to Expand Penn Station Train Tracks

Practically everybody agrees that one thing should be achieved to repair the chaos at Pennsylvania Station in New York Metropolis, the nation’s busiest transit hub. Now comes the laborious a part of devising an answer that can avoid controversy.

Amtrak, the nationwide railroad that owns the station and the tracks that run by it, is transferring forward with a plan to increase the station at an estimated value of $12 billion. That plan envisions demolishing a complete block of Midtown that’s residence to a 151-year-old church.

On Thursday, Amtrak awarded a contract for the design of the station growth, which it expects will take two years and as a lot as $73 million to attract up.

However that effort comes simply as a separate New York State plan to renovate the present station has run into opposition from neighborhood leaders.

The Amtrak growth is a part of a complete program of rail infrastructure enhancements generally known as Gateway. The centerpiece of Gateway can be a brand new pair of one-track tunnels beneath the Hudson River between Penn Station and New Jersey.

The brand new tunnels would complement a parallel pair of tunnels that had been constructed greater than 110 years in the past and are nonetheless broken by flooding throughout Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Finally, Gateway might double the trans-Hudson capability, with the aim of creating the commute into the town extra environment friendly and dependable for riders of New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains.

However Penn Station’s 21 tracks and platforms had been already overloaded earlier than the pandemic. For Gateway to serve its objective, the station must have extra tracks. Discovering a spot to place them in the midst of Manhattan is the problem Amtrak has handed to a gaggle of firms led by Arup, an engineering and design agency.

“Already, the station has been working at a stage of depth far past the extent that it was designed to help,” stated Stephen J. Gardner, the chief govt of Amtrak. He added, “We’re going to double the width of the pipe, however Penn Station, because the bucket that receives the water from the pipe, is already full.”

Any disruption to service at Penn can be not less than a couple of years off, when development of the growth would start. Gateway will not be anticipated to be accomplished for one more decade.

As for the state’s renovation mission, it will likely be the main target of a listening to in Manhattan on Friday, at which state lawmakers will take testimony from state officers, supporters and opponents of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to fund an overhaul of the station by letting builders fill the neighborhood round it with workplace towers and different tall buildings. The state would use funds from these builders to cowl its share of the $7 billion value of bettering the station.

The renovation is aimed toward changing Penn Station’s warren of cramped corridors that Ms. Hochul known as a “hellhole” with a spacious, sunlit practice corridor that she stated would “raise the human spirit.” However neighborhood leaders have questioned whether or not the scheme to have industrial builders pay for the renovation in addition to the next growth of the station is possible.

Beneath the Hochul plan, the towers surrounding the station would largely encompass workplace area, demand for which has declined sharply through the pandemic. The towers can be constructed over the subsequent 20 to 30 years.

A report issued final month by the town’s Impartial Finances Workplace concluded that the state had offered too little details about the funding plan to find out whether or not it’s viable, or if taxpayers is likely to be saddled with a number of the prices. These questions spurred three state senators from the town — Liz Krueger, Leroy Comrie and Luis R. Sepulveda — to convene Friday’s oversight listening to. Ms. Krueger and Mr. Comrie had been amongst a gaggle of 15 senators who despatched a letter to state officers in March, demanding that they “pause the Penn Station plan till these solutions have been offered.”

However Ms. Hochul as a substitute has pressed for an acceleration of the station’s renovation. Final week, she introduced the discharge of a request for proposals for the redesign, although that mission had been scheduled to observe the Amtrak growth of the station.

Mr. Gardner and Tony Coscia, Amtrak’s chairman, stated the designers of the growth would contemplate a spread of alternate options, together with including tracks to the south of Penn Station, beneath the block of West thirtieth Road that’s the longtime residence of St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church. “That’s one which Amtrak has lengthy mentioned and we consider is possible,” Mr. Gardner stated.

The Nationwide Belief for Historic Preservation stated it strongly opposed the plan to “demolish a number of metropolis blocks” round Penn Station as a result of they contained a number of constructions, together with the church, that both already had been on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations or had been eligible to be positioned on it.

Coordinating the varied items of Gateway and plans for Penn Station is difficult by the variety of businesses concerned. Amtrak owns a lot of the infrastructure, however the largest customers of Penn Station are the Lengthy Island Rail Highway and NJ Transit. The L.I.R.R. plans to start out diverting a few of its service to Grand Central Terminal later this yr; a couple of years later, one other New York commuter service, the Metro-North Railroad, plans to start out operating some trains to and from Penn.

Amtrak is taking the lead, in partnership with NJ Transit, on planning the growth. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the L.I.R.R. and Metro-North, is overseeing the renovation.

“There are simply so many cooks within the kitchen and so many questions unanswered,” stated Layla Regulation-Gisiko, the chairwoman of the land use committee of Neighborhood Board 5 and a critic of Gov. Hochul’s plan.

Amtrak officers hope to go off the kind of neighborhood opposition that would derail the growth plan. “We’ve bought to completely, absolutely air and talk the entire totally different choices,” Mr. Gardner stated, “to get an final result that works for the neighborhood.”

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