Transportation

Elected officials blame Amtrak for stalled MTA plan

The Metro-North expansion plan between Penn Station and Connecticut, which elected officials say is being stonewalled by Amtrak.

An ambitious MTA plan that calls for the creation of four new Metro-North stations in the Bronx has stalled because of Amtrak’s unwillingness to cooperate, according to more than two-dozen Bronx elected officials. 

In a sharply-worded letter addressed to the chairman of Amtrak’s board Anthony R. Coscia, 28 elected officials accused the national passenger train service of “holding up the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) ability to move forward with Penn Station Access,” by “refusing to negotiate a reasonable [Memorandum of Understanding] with the MTA that would allow work to commence.”

The MTA’s plan calls for new stations connecting Hunts Point, Co-op City, Morris Park/Van Nest and Parkchester with Manhattan’s Penn Station, and Westchester and Stamford, CT, where many Bronxites work.

An Amtrak spokesman disputed the claim. In an email to The Express, the spokesman wrote that “Amtrak has been cooperating with MTA’s planning efforts. Executives from both agencies “have met frequently in recent months to try to reach agreement on a number of key issues regarding design, construction and ultimate train operation of this project, in order to ensure that the proposed expansion of Metro-North service does not adversely impact Amtrak intercity passenger rail operation, which will see a significant expansion in 2021 with the introduction of expanded Acela service between New York and Boston.”  

The spokesman added that the Bronx plan “must be integrated with other key regional priorities,” such as the development of Moynihan Station across from Penn Station, the East Side Access project and the East River Tunnel Rehabilitation, among others. 

According to the Bronx officials who signed off on the letter, however, the MTA had a contract in place on a preliminary design last May, but has been “unable to come to an agreement with Amtrak.” One major sticking point, they argue, is Amtrak’s unwillingness to allow “reasonable access to Amtrak-owned track so MTA can plan and execute necessary work toward building new track.”

Amtrak, the elected officials argue, would benefit from partnering with the MTA. Penn Station Access “will provide resiliency and redundancy within the system,” as well as “track improvements and operational flexibility, bridge improvements, and power, signal and communications upgrades,” they wrote.

However, the elected officials also warned Amtrak not to demand city and state government pay more than their fair share. Although the MTA would help Amtrak by contributing funding for needed replacement of Pelham Bay Bridge, they cautioned that “Amtrak cannot use the MTA as a piggybank to help you out of your fiscal challenges.” 

To view presentations or learn more about the station areas, go to the Bronx Metro-North Study at http://www.nyc.gov/BMNS or email BMNS@planning.nyc.gov

 

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