New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants President Trump to intervene with "emergency" federal help to tackle aging infrastructure at Manhattan’s Penn Station.
Cuomo sent a letter to Trump Sunday asking that the Republican president treat conditions at the transit hub as an “emergency” on the heels of recent track breakdowns and mechanical problems that have caused massive delays in the 106-year old tunnels that carry trains from Penn Station to New Jersey. The Democratic governor also called for a station ownership change from federally funded Amtrak, which operates the facility that is also utilized by commuter lines for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority-operated Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit. Amtrak is planning emergency repairs this summer that will shut down certain tracks and cut service by about 20%.
“The negative impact of the state of disrepair at Penn Station has reached a tipping point,” said Cuomo in his letter. “I request that the federal government treat this as an emergency situation and provide funding for the short-term Penn construction and transportation alternatives and facilitation of a long-term resolution for Penn Station.”
Cuomo suggested in his letter that improvements to Penn Station and expediting funding for the planned Gateway Project adding a second rail tunnel linking New Jersey with Manhattan could fit with Trump’s proposed for $1 billion in federal infrastructure investments. He also floated the idea of the bi-state Port Authority of New York and New Jersey taking over Penn Station operations while also urging for privatization to be considered.
“At a minimum, I believe Amtrak should turn over construction and operations to a private sector terminal operator because all the past experience has suggested that Amtrak does not have the funds and expertise to consistently invest and manage over the long-term Penn Station's complex combination of track infrastructure and terminal operation,” Cuomo wrote. “I know that you believe in privatization where appropriate and in this situation I think there is no doubt that it is appropriate.”
The press offices for President Trump and the Department of Transportation did not respond to requests for comment on Cuomo’s letter. Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico said in response to Cuomo’s proposal for the transportation agency to take over station operations, “such a project has not been under review by the Port Authority."
Amtrak released a statement acknowledging infrastructure issues, but cautioned against ownership changes at the station.
“We agree that the heart of the problem is years of under investment and the overloading of an infrastructure and station designed to meet the needs of last century, not this one,” Amtrak said in the statement. “But, changes in management and private-sector expertise can’t make up for the billions that should have been invested to create the basic capacity and performance that commuters deserve.”