Train delays likely this summer over work at Penn Station

Rail travelers who have endured major disruptions recently at Penn Station, the nation's busiest rail station, are likely to see more delays this summer because it's in dire need of repair work, Amtrak officials said Thursday.

Work on tracks and signals will begin in May and continue through the summer, Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman said. Some work will be done on weekends, but a significant part will be done on weekdays.

He didn't specify how service on Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit would be affected and said those details would be finalized during discussions with the two commuter railroads in coming days.

Hundreds of thousands of commuters and travelers from up and down the East Coast pass through the New York station each day.

In the last month, two trains have derailed and others have become disabled in the station's tunnels, causing major delays that have rippled across New Jersey and Long Island and up and down the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C.

The repair and replacement of tracks and signals is ongoing and was to have been performed over the next two to three years, mainly during off hours, Moorman said. Recent events added urgency.

"Weekend work is not enough to get the most complex work done, and we've made the decision that the prudent thing to do is to get this done more quickly," Moorman said. "But it will have a bigger impact on the station."

The events of the past month have shown that "we have to step up our game," he added.

How much commuters will be affected remains unknown. Moorman wouldn't specify how many tracks would have to be taken out of service or how that would affect rail schedules. After an April 3 derailment, eight of the station's 21 tracks were closed, causing delays and service cancellations for four days.

A New Jersey Transit spokeswoman said the agency has been in constant communication with Amtrak and has been "reassured that we will be part of the discussion when the plan is finalized."

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had promised to halt state payments to Amtrak after the derailment but said Thursday after an unrelated address to a business group that the new efforts satisfied him.

"It was what I was looking for," he said. "Remember at the time I said this was not to be punitive, just do what we're paying you for."

Moorman also said Amtrak and the commuter railroads will review the coordination between their passenger concourses in the station, with the aim of developing a joint operations center to improve responses to service disruptions.

Moorman said former Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Tom Prendergast will lead the review.