Amtrak Stalling MTA West Side Plan

The MTA has many major plans it would like to implement to its commuter railroad services. With the Long Island Railroad, it is East Side Access to provide service to Grand Central Station. For the Metro-North, it is the ability to send riders to Penn Station.

While the LIRR project is rolling along, the Metro-North’s is not & the MTA blames the ridiculous demands of Amtrak as it tries to stall such service being introduced. Thomas C. Zambito of the Rockland/Westchester Journal News has more:

Amtrak’s 11th-hour demands have stalled plans for a rail project that would deliver Metro-North commuters to Manhattan’s West Side for the first time and open a new path to jobs in Westchester County, a top-ranking Metropolitan Transportation Authority official says.

Negotiations between Amtrak, the government-run passenger rail, and the MTA have broken down in recent months, delaying by at least six months the opening of bids for design of the Penn Station Access Project, according to Janno Lieber, the chief development officer for the MTA, Metro-North’s parent agency.

“The MTA is going to build this,” Lieber said in his first interview on the subject. “The MTA is going to pay for it. Amtrak is getting a new railroad … They’re getting all this for free and we need a commitment that they will allow us not just to build them a new railroad but to operate on that once we’re done.”

A few highlights of the MTA’s plan:

  • After New Rochelle, New Haven Line trains would split, with some taking the existing route to Grand Central and others taking a new route along the Hell Gate Line to Penn Station.
  • Six Sound Shore towns — New Rochelle, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Rye, Port Chester and Harrison — would be able to access the route to Penn Station.
  • Four new stations would be built in the Bronx in Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point.
  • The project would come online in the years after the East Side of Manhattan is opened to Long Island Rail Road trains, which currently use Penn Station as their Manhattan hub.

Amtrak owns much of the property on which the project will be built, including the Hell Gate right of way, which the railroad currently uses to get into and out of Penn Station. The same approach would be used to deliver New Haven Line trains to Penn Station.

And that’s where much of the tension between the two sides has been centered.

Amtrak wants to collect access fees for use of the Hell Gate, in addition to what the MTA has already agreed to pay as part of a federally-mandated cost-sharing deal, Lieber said.

And the MTA balked at Amtrak’s recent demand that the authority pay for the bulk of the cost to replace the Pelham Bay Bridge, a 111-year-old Amtrak-owned span that crosses the Hutchinson River in the Bronx.

Click here for the complete report.

Leave it to Amtrak to be a cause of trouble for a transportation project in & around the tri-state area. The agency can never seem to do anything right as one blunder after another has led to issues. Quite honestly, their control of Penn Station needed to be revoked ages ago as it would drastically improve things at how the station would operate whether it be the current one or its new home which will eventually come.

As far as this project goes, Amtrak has some nerve to demand the fees & the bulk of a bridge repair to be paid by the MTA. However the inept leadership at Amtrak never ceases to amaze me with their decision making process. All we can do is hope that a fair deal can be done so this project can get off the ground & start getting closer to becoming a reality.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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