NEW YORK — New York Penn Station — arguably the most notorious transit hub in the region and once the busiest in North America — is on the path to getting a face-lift.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy jointly announced Thursday morning a request for a proposal to reimagine and redesign the station that is known for chaos and delays.
“Today we are focusing on the physical, and I believe it will be a spiritual, transformation of Penn Station itself,” said Hochul, who was joined by Murphy, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Metropolitan Transportation Authority President Janno Lieber, NJ Transit President Kevin Corbett and Amtrak board Chair Tony Coscia.
Proposals are due July 28 and Hochul said a winning design and engineering firm will be selected late summer or early fall.
“All of our residents, whether they be daily commuters, occasional visitors and regardless of which direction they are traveling, deserve a Penn Station that is inviting and comfortable,” Murphy said. “They deserve better than the continually cramped and constantly muggy halls and claustrophobic, low-slung ceilings; they deserve better than the current maze of walkways that deserve their own page on Google Maps.”
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NJ Transit, Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road share the tracks at Penn, though many customers for Amtrak and LIRR can now board from next door Moynihan Train Hall, where Thursday’s press conference was held. The tracks NJ Transit primarily uses at Penn do not run under Moynihan. Six subway lines also stop at Penn Station.
The renovation of Penn, estimated to cost around $7 billion, could include consolidating the concourse waiting area into one level, constructing more escalators, stairwells, elevators and entrances, and connecting Penn and Herald Square with a new underground pedestrian corridor. There are also discussions about repurposing a former taxiway into a glassed-in entrance, according to a Politico report.
This project is one of several proposed as part of a new vision for the area around the train station. The other proposals include:
- Building eight new tracks south of Penn Station for primarily NJ Transit use.
- Constructing 10 new mixed-use buildings that could help pay for the plan.
- Rehabilitating the more than 110-year-old train tunnel under the Hudson River and constructing a new one, as part of the Gateway program.
Advocates, residents and the New York City Independent Budget Office voiced skepticism about the slew of projects with concerns about financing, over-development and scant details about the transit improvements.
The New Jersey contingency at Thursday’s announcement also emphasized the need to move ahead with the tunnels, or else, as Murphy said, “having a new Penn Station doesn’t mean much.” A memorandum of understanding between the two states should be announced in the coming weeks to outline how the states will pay for that $12.6 billion project.
“Gov. Hochul and I were discussing the fact that we need to have a sense of urgency around this and we both agree with that,” Murphy said. “The MOU and term sheet are the highest priorities and they’re not on the backburner at all.”
Lieber, who heads the MTA, said there is urgency to begin construction on Penn Station’s renovations because commuter traffic will be relatively low in the coming years. Some Long Island Rail Road trains will begin stopping at Grand Central Station, as part of the long-awaited East Side Access project opening to commuters later this year. In five or six years, some Metro-North trains will stop at Penn Station.
“We must use that window when there are few legs, railroad commuters in Penn Station to really transform it and we’re going to do just that,” Lieber said.
Colleen Wilson covers the Port Authority and NJ Transit for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to her work covering the region’s transportation systems and how they affect your commute, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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