Amtrak is rolling out a plan to improve conditions in its century-old East River Tunnels that have caused delays for Long Island Rail Road trains recently, repeatedly snarling rush hour for commuters.

The plan involves overhauling the existing track inspection program, implementing a new fix-it-first policy that will prioritize upgrading the aging infrastructure before it breaks down and replacing old “jointed rail” segments prone to failure—a type of track blamed for last week’s tunnel snafu.

“These tunnels are the weakest link in the commute of hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders, and by bringing them up to a state of good repair we’ll reduce the frequency of the maddening delays, reroutes and cancellations that currently happen far too often,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said.

Schumer, who met with Amtrak Board of Directors Chairman Anthony Coscia to discuss the issues, said the goal is to improve the tunnels’ state over the next three to five years, allowing for more reliable service in and out of Penn Station.

The plan was unveiled was Amtrak is in the middle of a four-year-long track replacement and drainage system upgrade project in the four tunnels. That project is advancing simultaneously with the East Side Access project that is expected to bring LIRR service to Grand Central Terminal beginning in 2019.

Schumer is also urging that New York State Sen. Chuck Fuschillo (R-Merrick), chairman of the transportation committee, be appointed to Amtrak’s Board of Directors to look out for the interests of Long Islanders.

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“We look forward to working together with [Schumer] to assist in the continued advancement of these plans which will ultimately improve the overall reliability of our respective operations at the nation’s largest transit hub,” Amtrak said.


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Timothy Bolger is the Managing Editor for the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.