Metro-North looks into extending rail service to Penn Station

Metro-North Railroad announced plans last week to continue its long-running efforts to provide service to Penn Station.

The railroad issued a press release last Tuesday announcing that it would restart an environmental review from a decade ago to assess the possibility and impact of running its trains to Penn Station. Though Metro-North trains currently run to Grand Central Terminal, the completion of current New York infrastructure projects would permit Metro-North to serve Penn Station without significant additional cost, Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said.

“It has always been a good idea,” Anders said of expansion into Penn Station. But she added that until three New York projects come to completion, “there is no room at Penn Station.”

Three construction projects seek to divert Penn Station traffic elsewhere, opening up space for Metro-North service, and of late, each of the projects has seen progress. The East Side Access tunnel, which will connect existing Long Island Railroad routes to a new station underneath Grand Central Terminal, received additional federal funding in May. In late July, New Jersey Transit’s Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC, project received permission to begin construction. ARC involves building a rail tunnel under the Hudson River and a new rail station in Manhattan. And this past Sunday, Amtrak and rail officials announced a preliminary agreement to expand Penn Station into the James A. Farley Post Office Building across the street.

Anders said the effect of these projects would be to alleviate the stress on Penn Station’s overtaxed tracks and schedule, diverting trains and passengers to new stations and freeing up capacity for Metro-North.

She added that the only expenses to Metro-North would be the purchase of trains and the construction of new stations in the East Bronx and Manhattan: No new tracks would need to be built because other rail companies already operate along the lines. Cliff Cole, a regional spokesman for Amtrak, said the plans have little to do with Amtrak’s service.

Anders added that starting Sept. 20, Metro-North will be running trains through Penn Station to Giants Stadium in New Jersey on Sundays during football season — a sign that the infrastructure is already in place, she said.

“It’s very low cost,” Anders said. “Millions, not billions.”

When told of the plans, James Mendelson ’13 said the proposal would make traveling to his hometown of New York more convenient, though he expressed reservations about the usefulness of the project. The trip between Penn Station and Grand Central currently requires a short subway ride.

“I do think it would possibly cost a lot of money for what would amount to saving a couple minutes of people’s time,” Mendelson said.

Anders said the first step in the process, the environmental review, will be finished by the end of 2010.

Comments