Amtrak hires firm to plan major track and infrastructure improvements into NYC

Jul 2, 2022

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As train travel bounces back from the lower-demand days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s big news about the future of a critical section of the Northeast Corridor in and around New York.

Amtrak announced it reached a contract with a design firm to begin planning improvements at New York Penn Station and to railroad infrastructure in the area. It hopes to double train capacity into New York City from New Jersey.

As part of the agreement, engineering and design firm Arup will create design options for the first new tracks, platforms and concourses connected to Penn Station in more than a century, Amtrak said in a statement.

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New York Penn Station sign
A sign directs commuters at New York Penn Station. (Photo by Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Seen as a critical piece of a larger plan to improve train travel in the region, officials have particular hopes of relieving a bottleneck around New York, while looking to increase train capacity and make railroad travel more reliable.

This work will be just one part of the Gateway Program, the package of infrastructure projects aimed at expanding and improving rail service on the stretch of tracks in and around New York. This includes doubling train tunnel capacity under the Hudson River into New York Penn Station.

Related: First look at Amtrak’s spiffy new Acela trains

Going forward, the project will be among the “most ambitious, technically challenging and necessary” proposals in New York City, according to Arup, the consulting firm.

In addition to track and platform infrastructure improvements, the contract calls for Arup to develop design plans for new escalators and pedestrian areas inside Penn Station, with an eye on coordinating with other contractors as a litany of projects at the nation’s busiest rail station move forward.

Related: TPG’s guide to Penn Station in New York City

amtrak penn station newark train
(Photo by Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Indeed, the design for these infrastructure improvements will take place as leaders plan for the future of Penn Station itself. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has also unveiled design concepts for a reconstruction of the station. The designs prominently feature natural light in the proposed 25,000-square-foot facility. The proposal also calls for enhanced amenities and retail options.

The proposed reconstruction of Penn Station follows the 2021 opening of the $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall across the street, which today is Amtrak’s primary home in the Penn Station complex.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Altogether, this work comes at a time train travel in America is eyeing a major transformation. It’s spurred by the unprecedented tens of billions in funding set aside for rail as part of last year’s infrastructure law, not to mention a ridership that’s bouncing back from the pandemic and changing in nature.

Related: Amtrak’s Acela line is speeding up thanks to infrastructure improvements in New Jersey

“The importance of Penn Station’s transformation will be diminished without corresponding improvements to its capacity and accessibility,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement.

The design process Arup is undertaking, expected to take around two years, will begin right away as part of the $73 million contract, Amtrak said.

Featured photo by Gabby Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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