By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York transportation officials said on Monday that 9,600 commuters a day from suburban Long Island could see their weekday morning rides into Manhattan's overtaxed Pennsylvania Station disrupted by Amtrak's summer repair program at the station.
Amtrak's work, which will start July 10, was originally scheduled to take years but was expedited after recent derailments and other problems left hundreds of thousands of commuters delayed throughout the greater New York City area because of decaying infrastructure.
The repairs, which will take three key tracks offline, will last through Sept. 1.
While Amtrak owns and operates the station and is spearheading the repairs, New York's Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and NJ Transit also will see major disruptions because they lease track and station space and will have to reroute trains.
Some riders from New Jersey will see 45 minutes added to their commutes each way when their direct service is temporarily halted, and Amtrak is canceling some of its trains from Washington, D.C.
During the so-called "summer of agony," LIRR must cancel or divert 15 trains into Penn Station during morning rush hour, directly impacting at least 9,600 of its roughly 88,000 customers every morning, officials said at a news conference.
To make up for it, LIRR will add three new trains into Penn Station and 36 cars to other existing trains. It also will launch two new routes for water ferries and 200 new coach buses from points across Long Island.
Unlike NJ Transit, LIRR has no plans to discount fares for inconvenienced passengers.
"We've chosen to focus on providing service," said
Veronique "Ronnie" Hakim, interim director of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the LIRR.
"Obviously it's going to be a long, hot summer," she said. "The idea of this service plan is to be as responsive to our customers' needs as possible."
Hakim could not say how much the additional service will cost or how it will be paid for, although she said expenses will not be pushed down onto customers.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also said on Monday he had ordered the MTA to finish major construction on its bridges and tunnels before Amtrak starts its repairs.
The aim, he said, is to help ease the expected additional traffic on roads as train passengers seek other ways to get to work.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Bill Trott)