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Amtrak to upgrade New York Penn waiting area ahead of Moynihan station opening

Jan. 06, 2020
4 min read
Amtrak to upgrade New York Penn waiting area ahead of Moynihan station opening
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Travelers best expect a little dust when they pass through New York's Penn Station this winter as Amtrak upgrades its waiting areas ahead of its move to the new Moynihan Train Hall.

The rail carrier has closed its ticketed passenger waiting area in Penn for renovations that are scheduled for completion by the beginning of summer, Amtrak told travelers in an email Monday. The updated waiting area will include new furniture, tables, power outlets, and a dedicated family area.

In the meantime, ticketed travelers will have access to a temporary waiting area located between the west gates for tracks 9/10 and 13/14 in Penn, said Amtrak.

The Penn Station waiting area upgrades are just a precursor to the new Moynihan Train Hall due to open in December. The new facility, which will include ticketing and passenger waiting space, is being built to the west of Penn in a former Post Office building across 8th Avenue.

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A rendering of the Amtrak and LIRR concourse in the new Moynihan Train Hall adjacent to New York's Penn Station. (Image courtesy of Amtrak)

“It is a world class train hall," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday. "It’s something that when you walk in, you’re going to be blown away.”

The Long Island Railroad (LIRR), which is operated by New York, will also move its main operations to Moynihan from Penn when the new head house opens.

Cuomo's plans for Penn Station are much grander than just the new train hall. In addition to the new head house, New York will move forward with an expansion of the station to the south aimed at increasing passenger capacity by 40%. The state will buy the block between 7th and 8th Avenues and bounded by 30th and 31st Streets to construct eight new tracks and platforms for the station.

"The problem with Penn Station is the functionality – is the track capacity," he said.

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Related: Amtrak plans to expand new nonstop Acela service from New York

New York will proceed with plans to add tracks to Penn Station whether or not the proposed Gateway Tunnel, which would alleviate the bottleneck under the Hudson River by adding two tracks to the two that exist, moves forward, said Cuomo. The governor added that he supports Gateway, but notes that the project is being lead by Amtrak and not New York.

Cuomo's proposed Penn Station expansion immediate faced criticism. Numerous transportation experts noted that the new tracks do nothing to address the real chokepoints for the station — rail access, particularly to the west under the Hudson where Gateway is planned.

"More tracks for more terminating trains, rather than regional rail through-service, which requires fewer tracks," Tweeted Yonah Freemark, author of The Transport Politic blog that has followed transit issues around the country for more than a decade.

Still, the work by Amtrak and New York will create a nicer environment for the 200 million people who pass through Penn Station annually, making it the busiest train station — by far — in the U.S.

"Penn Station has more people go through it than LaGuardia, JFK and Newark airport[s] combined," said Cuomo. "Just imagine how many people are coming through Penn and that's their first impression of New York?"

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images

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