After several infrastructure failures in New York's Penn Station, Amtrak continues to define its plans to accelerate previously-deferred maintenance in the station complex it operates. While maintenance work has traditionally been conducted during low-traffic periods on weekends and weekdays overnight, Amtrak now says to do a proper job quickly it will have to shut down some tracks even during peak commuter hours. Several news sources said they had obtained copies of Amtrak's plan, which would shut down what is usually reported as two tracks -- presumably station platform tracks -- for 44 total days this summer. Under the current plans, the shutdowns would occur between July 7 and 25, and August 4 and 28. The plan was reported by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media (and printed in the Star-Ledger on May 3) and Patrick McGeehan for the New York Times (also May 3). The impact of the track shutdowns was not immediately clear, with riders fearing a "commuter hell" and NJ Transit Executive Director Steven Santoro declaring that shutdowns comparable to a recent incident that forced emergency shutdown of 8 of the station's 21 tracks as "not acceptable." New Jersey politicians questioned the timing of the planned work, questioning why Amtrak didn't choose to start the work over the July 4 holiday weekend, and finish it up the last week in August, when, they said, many people are on vacation. All of the railroads using the station planned to meet to determine how best to cope with the work program and to minimize impact on their customers.

Specific plans seem to be leaking out, and some were reported by Larry Higgs for NJ Advance Media. In the July work, Higgs reported, station tracks 12 and 13 would be out of service for ten days. His report also contains the alarming information that "one of the two Hudson River tunnels would be dedicated to moving construction and demolition material into and out of the worksite between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.;" this seems unlikely if put in effect on commuting days, for it would paralyze the peak-hour traffic flow. (We wonder if the hours are reversed; perhaps the one tunnel track would be used for construction only at night? -- Ed.) According to this report, the same tracks, 12 and 13, would be taken out of service for 13 days in August as well. Work on tracks 9 and 10 would also be conducted. The specific work includes "replacing a complete scissor track crossing, signals and the concrete track bed that supports the rails."

Meanwhile, repairs continue on the overnight and weekend basis, and NJ Transit continues to warn of delays at all times. The NJT weekend schedule has for years been structured so that one of the two Hudson River "tubes" can be taken out of service all weekend, resulting in limitations on scheduling that have become so routine that few question them any longer.