NYC’s Penn Station Expansion Remakes a Depot People Love to Hate
(Bloomberg) -- For a symbol of life-altering change in New York City next year, hundreds of thousands of East Coast train travelers and commuters need look no farther than the Jan. 1 opening of the Moynihan Train Hall.
The $1.6 billion project expands Penn Station, the nation’s busiest rail terminal, by 255,000 square feet (23,690 square meters) to serve Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak passengers. The new facility is designed to provide more room for the 650,000 people who traveled through the station every day before the pandemic.
The hall is named after the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who decried the 1964 razing of the above-ground portion of the historic Penn Station, which made room for Madison Square Garden. After the Beaux-Arts original was destroyed, architectural historian Vincent Scully lamented, “One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.”
Here are answers to some of the biggest questions about the project:
What can commuters expect?
Developers expanded Penn Station into the 108-year-old James A. Farley Post Office building, a landmark designed by McKim, Mead & White, directly across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station. Passengers will enter a large central atrium topped by a 92-foot-high skylight. There’s a dedicated lounge for nursing mothers, and free public high-speed Wi-Fi throughout.
How will commutes change?
Beginning Jan. 1, all Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak trains will be served by the 17 tracks accessible from the train hall. Eventually, the facility will also serve Metro-North commuters. Each operator will offer customer service and waiting areas.
Amtrak is expanding its passenger services into the new hall. Its opening may coincide later this year with the arrival of new Acela high-speed trains that will serve the Boston-Washington corridor at speeds as high as 165 mph. Its amenities will include a staffed lounge available to all Acela first class or sleeping-car passengers, plus members of Amtrak’s rewards plans.
How will passengers get from Moynihan to Penn and vice versa?
Amtrak’s main entrance to the Moynihan Train Hall is mid-block on 31st Street. In bad weather, customers can walk between Moynihan and Penn Station on the LIRR concourse level through the Moynihan lower concourse. Or, customers can exit Penn Station onto Eighth Avenue, cross that street and enter the train hall.
Is it accessible for travelers with disabilities?
Travelers with disabilities can use any entrance to access the train hall. In addition, there will be level boarding at the platforms. It will offer Red Cap assistance, TTD communications for the deaf and station wheelchair service.
The project is funded with $550 million from New York state; $420 million from Amtrak, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a federal grant; and $630 million from the developers, Related Cos. and Vornado Realty Trust.
What’s happening with the existing station?
The old Penn Station will continue to serve New Jersey Transit commuters, as well as Amtrak travelers between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., when the Moynihan Train Hall will be closed to the public. The facility has been undergoing cosmetic and structural renovation in recent years.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has a plan to expand rail capacity at Penn Station by about 40%, purchasing land south of the existing station to add four train concourses and eight lengths of track.
What other work is being done?
The overhaul also includes creating a 700,000-square-foot mixed-use development featuring commercial, retail and dining space. It’s part of a $2.5 billion project that includes renovations and upgrades of the existing Penn Station and adjacent subway stations.
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