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Cuomo Announces More Penn Station Plans

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

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In an agenda outlined by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, MTA, Amtrack and New Jersey Transit have announced new options to transform Penn Station following what they’re calling a yearlong “re-envisioning” of the project.

The plan is to unify the separate railroads’ concourses into one open, light-filled space, according to officials, who look at the success of the Moynihan Train Hall renovation as inspiration.

“The Empire Station Complex is a transformative project that will support and deliver on the long-delayed Gateway vision for the entire East Coast and enhance the passenger experience in North America's busiest transportation hub. Together with our partners in New Jersey and at Amtrak, New York State is moving quickly to advance this comprehensive plan,” Cuomo said.

“These reconstruction alternatives provide a framework for a new and improved Penn Station that serves as an appropriate doorway to a world-class city. Every single day, we get closer to the end of COVID-19 and the beginning of a new post-pandemic economy, and this project will be a cornerstone of the revitalized New York City that we must build together.”

Renderings Courtest of the Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

In an agenda outlined by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, MTA, Amtrack and New Jersey Transit have announced new options to transform Penn Station following what they’re calling a yearlong “re-envisioning” of the project.

The project—in combination with the new tracks and platforms to be built as part of Penn Station Expansion—will be capable of accommodating the future volume of customers using both the existing Penn Station and the newly expanded facility. Ridership is expected to grow to 830,000 daily users in 2038, about 54% of whom will be MTA customers using LIRR, Metro-North and the subway, and 42% New Jersey transit customers, with the balance being Amtrak customers, according to the governor’s office.

The re-envisioning made way for two alternatives, but key elements for both include:

  • Increasing concourse space to reduce congestion and handle future growth; 
  • Unifying station operations such as ticketing, waiting areas and cleaning services for all railroads;
  • Adding more stairs, escalators and elevators to spread riders along the narrow platforms, resulting in a total of 30 new ways to reach platforms; and
  • Providing full accessibility in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and introducing new retail opportunities.    

The two alternatives include a two-level approach and a single-level approach. The two-level includes:

  • Leveraging the existing configuration's two-level boarding configuration while improving the existing Penn's layout, creating a central atrium, and repurposing some of Amtrak's space for NJ Transit's commuters and operations;
  • This can be combined with a new entrance on Eighth Avenue and the light-filled West Train Hall in the space currently occupied by Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater by purchasing the theater from MSG, increasing sightlines and better movement throughout the train hall; and
  • This could also incorporate new vertical access points to platforms, significantly widened concourses throughout and new entrances at sidewalk level along Eighth Avenue.

The single-level approach includes:

  • This transforms the station into a single-level concourse, eliminating all low ceiling heights and simplifying entry and exit routes from trains and the street level while also creating new large circulation areas bigger than the Great Hall of Grand Central Terminal;
  • This would remove 40% of the upper level so that all the public concourses could be two or three stories high, resulting in more space throughout the station with better sightlines and more direct access to both tracks and platforms, and to station entrances/exits;
  • It would also feature a spacious mid-block Train Hall with new entrances on 33rd and 31st Streets near Seventh Avenue;
  • It would move MSG loading off 33rd Street, allowing 33rd Street to become a pedestrian-oriented shared street; and
  • It could also be combined with a new entrance on Eighth Avenue and the light-filled West Train Hall in the space currently occupied by Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater by purchasing the theater from MSG. 

Now, the public is invited to comment on the proposed designs. Neither a deadline for comments or a price tag for either option has been announced.

Moynihan Train Hall Project

At the start of the year, New York City celebrated the opening of the Moynihan Train Hall, the $1.6 billion project that’s part of a larger effort of work on the historic Penn Station.

The 255,000-square-foot hall is a transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office Building and has increased Penn Station’s concourse space by 50%.

Cuomo praised the project—which had undergone considerable delays—for its completion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The completion of this gorgeous new train hall would be a special accomplishment at any time, but it's an extraordinary accomplishment today because we're at a place where no one ever envisioned being. This has been a traumatic year, both individually and collectively, and the question facing us has been, how do we respond?” Cuomo said.

“Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a man of true vision. He saw the potential in an underutilized post office and knew that if done correctly, this facility could not only give New York the transit hub it has long deserved, but serve as a monument to the public itself. We built this as a statement of who we are, and who we aspire to be. Is it grand? Yes. Is it bold? Yes, because that is the spirit of New York and that is the statement we want to make to our visitors, to our children and to future generations. As dark as 2020 has been, this new hall will bring the light, literally and figuratively, for everyone who visits this great city.”

The plan is to unify the separate railroads’ concourses into one open, light-filled space, according to officials, who look at the success of the Moynihan Train Hall renovation as inspiration.

The project was led by Empire State Development through a public-private partnership with Vornado Realty Trust, The Related Companies, Skanska, the MTA, the Long Island Rail Road, Amtrak and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the concourse provides access to 17 of the station's 21 tracks. One of the main design elements is the reuse of the three original 150-foot-long steel trusses. A steel box beam was added so that the framing could be removed for the installation of several skylights, a focal point of the hall. Ceiling murals are also present above the 31st and 33rd street entrances.

Reportedly, there are more portions of the Farley building that are under renovation that are slated to open to the public later this year.

Background & Blunders

The Moynihan entrance is just part of a multibillion-dollar plan to improve the station, which was announced in September 2016 with work beginning the next year.

Construction began with a restoration of the post office’s facade, including its 700 windows, copper roof, steel trusses and terra-cotta cornices.

However, just last summer, a report from Amtrak revealed that its part of the train hall project was delayed and over budget, calling the December opening deadline into question.

The greater $1.6 billion project initially included $106 million from Amtrak that allowed it to design its own space in Moynihan, a plan to relieve some of the pressure from the historic Penn Station across the street.

At the time, Amtrak said that certain functions that might not be online by December include passenger information displays or other station operations, which might not be available until March of next year.

The company attributes the delays and costs to “lack of oversight and insufficient experiences from staff.”

“We have previously reported on the company’s challenges delivering large, complex programs on time and within budget and recommended that the company incorporate best practices into its company-wide program management oversight policies and procedures,” according to the report.

“The company has taken significant steps to remedy early program management deficiencies on the Moynihan program. It did not, however, take these actions soon enough to avoid cost increases and ensure that it can complete its entire station relocation by the scheduled opening date at the end of 2020. These ongoing cost and schedule risks are the result of ineffective executive oversight coupled with inexperienced staff during the program’s first two years, and a failure to follow the company’s program management standards.”

As recently as June (with only six months left in the initial schedule) Amtrak said that the program team did not have reliable planning or management.

However, city officials were quick to point out that Amtrak was only one piece of the puzzle.

“Amtrak’s project is a subcomponent of the larger train hall, representing less than 10% of the overall project, and it would be a mistake to draw broad-based conclusions from this narrowly-focused report,” said Eric Gertler, CEO-Designate of Empire State Development.

“The Moynihan Train Hall will be complete by the end of this year, on budget and ahead of schedule, and Amtrak leadership have assured us they will meet that timeline. Once completed, it will provide New Yorkers with the modern transit hub they deserve, while honoring the legacy of the original Penn Station. From the Kosciuszko Bridge to the Albany Airport to the new Rochester Rail Station, this administration has a history of delivering major infrastructure projects on time and on budget—and after 30 years of delays, we will do the same at Moynihan Train Hall.”

   

Tagged categories: Maintenance + Renovation; Mass transit; NA; North America; Public Transit; Renovation; Transportation; Upcoming projects

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