The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has announced the imminent start of the first phase of the expansion of Penn Station, a long-term project that will eventually reconstruct the main Post Office west of Eighth Avenue into the new Moynihan Station, mostly to be used by Amtrak. According to the Associated Press, published in the Star-Ledger (May 9), Port Authority chairman Patrick Foyle said, “From the point of view of NJ Transit Riders, this is going to be a significant advancement.” The first phase concentrates on improved access to the west end of Penn Station and will expand an existing concourse that today serves only Long Island Rail Road riders; the concourse is at the northwest corner of Penn Station and is actually under the Post Office. There will be new escalators and elevators and new street-level access to Eighth Avenue at 31th and 32t Streets. This first phase is due to begin this summer and be finished by 2016.
The Lackawanna Coalition is concerned that the existing access to NJ Transit trains at Penn Station, despite improvements over the years, remains inadequate and sometimes even dangerous as heavy passenger loads attempt to board and leave trains, sometimes simulataneously on the same platform. Access to the west end of the platforms, as planned by the new program, is particularly critical, given that many NJT off-peak departing trains inexplicably are positioned so that the only open cars are at the extreme west end.
The Lackawanna Coalition has endorsed the concept of the Moynihan Station planned for the Farley Post Office building west of Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, across the street from the existing Penn Station, but has not endorsed the plan in its current form. We call for all tracks to be extended to accommodate trains of any length, and for walkways above track level to accommodate all platforms. These changes will improve pedestrian flow, facilitate rail operations, and increase station capacity during peak commuting hours. The basic plan calls for extending existing platforms to the west and building a new station under the Post Office building, which would be used primarily by Amtrak for intercity trains.
The plan to extend the existing Penn Station into the historic Farley Post Office Building on the west side of Eighth Avenue received a boost as the Federal Government gave the project a grant of $83.3 million under the TIGER (Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery) Program. New York State and Amtrak officials hailed the move, which would improve capacity in the station and provide a place where it would be easier to make connections than in the current Penn Station layout. The Lackawanna Coalition urges NJT to build new tunnels and tracks that will go to the existing Penn Station, so New Jersey’s rail riders can also take advantage of the improvements that the Moynihan Station plan is slated to produce.