OFF THE RAILS

New York wants to declare America’s second-busiest railway station a national emergency

A commuter’s dungeon on a good day, New York’s Pennsylvania Station is in crisis.

On an average weekday, some 600,000 travelers pass through Penn Station, which serves as a hub for Amtrak, the national rail service, as well as Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit—making it the second-busiest railway station in the US after Penn’s more beautiful crosstown rival Grand Central, which gets 750,000 a day. But aging tracks combined with two derailments and extensive delays in recent months have turned the windowless maze in the heart of Manhattan into a hell for travelers passing through the gateway to America’s largest city.

New York state governor Andrew Cuomo is now pleading with Donald Trump to treat Penn Station as an emergency and used federal funds to fix it.

“While this is not a hurricane or flood it will affect as many people and businesses with dire consequences,” Cuomo wrote in a letter to Trump. “Like a natural disaster, we didn’t create it but our public offices require we address it.”

Problems at the station have come to a head in the last few months and urgent work on the aging tracks will further snarl service. Amtrak, which owns the station, is planning to shut several tracks over the next few months for repairs. Cuomo called it a “summer of agony” for commuters, adding that Amtrak should no longer run the station and that a private operator should be considered, saying the station was “intolerable,” even without the latest round of trouble. “I have referred to the station as reminding me of the Catacombs—claustrophobic, threatening, and crumbling,” Cuomo said.

Last year, the governor unveiled a plan for a new train hall (paywall) to replace Penn in the post-office building across the street.


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