Amtrak to consider direct service to Long Island

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NEW YORK — Friday’s announcement that Amtrak’s board of directors had reached agreement with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority on the Penn Station Access project had been expected.

An accompanying possibility — direct Amtrak service to Long Island — was not.

In a press release following the Amtrak board meeting, Stephen Gardner, senior executive vice president, said Amtrak is “looking forward to working together on advancing direct Amtrak service to and from key population centers on Long Island.”

Intercity passenger rail service to and from Long Island, while a new idea for Amtrak, does have precedent. The late 1920s and ‘30s witnessed through Pennsylvania Railroad sleeping cars between Pittsburgh and Montauk, N.Y., on the far eastern tip of Long Island. A summer-only parlor car service was also offered between Washington and Montauk once a week each way.  During the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, some PRR long-distance trains were scheduled to arrive and depart from what is the current Mets-Willets Point Station in the borough of Queens, on Long Island. On Feb. 2, 1939, the inaugural trip of Seaboard Air Line’s Silver Meteor departed the same station to Miami.

While these services were largely seasonal, the new service promises more frequent scheduling with full consists. A recent statement by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said MTA and Amtrak will study the feasibility of Amtrak running several trains daily from Long Island to Penn Station and continuing either north to Boston or south to Washington.

The East Bronx service to New York City also has occurred before.

The Penn Station Access project will use Metro-North Railroad to connect Manhattan with the fast-growing East Bronx. From 1909 until 1931, there was an electrified suburban service run by the New Haven Railroad. The Harlem River Branch fielded 20 weekday round trips between a now-vanished terminal in the South Bronx and New Rochelle; it mimicked the proposed Metro-North route for most of the length. In 1908, 12 stations were built to service riders; four new Metro-North stations will be close to locations of those original stops.

The project includes upgrading the right-of-way with new tracks, switches, and station platforms, as well as power, signal, communication, and infrastructure modifications. The MTA will fund this infrastructure investment and has also agreed to share in the future costs of operation, maintenance, and recapitalization of this line.  Prior funding disagreements between the MTA and Amtrak had kept this project in limbo for over 20 years.

It is expected the new service will start in 2022 or shortly thereafter.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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