MTA Advances $1.6B Metro North Penn Station Access Project

MTA Advances $1.6B Metro North Penn Station Access Project
From left, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

ALBANY—In another sign of a reopening economy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported on May 13 that the delayed Metro North Penn Station Access project will now be resumed with bids going out shortly on the nearly $1.6-billion initiative.

The plan, which was paused last year due to the onset of COVID-19, calls for the construction of four new Metro-North Railroad stations in Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City in the Bronx as well as major track upgrades in that borough. The governor reported that the state, MTA and the federal government had come to an agreement on a $1.58-billion budget for the project.

The MTA will now solicit three consortia to bid on the design-build project through a Request for Proposal (RFP). Back in February 2020 the MTA announced it had selected the teams of Halmar International, LLC/Railworks, JV (Ove Arup & Partners P.C., lead designer); Skanska ECCO III Penn Station Connectors, JV (AECOM USA, Inc., lead designer) and Tutor Perini/O&G, JV (Parsons Transportation Group of New York, Inc., lead designer) were qualified to bid on the Penn Access job. However, the project was put on pause due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic the following month.

The governor also announced that the federal government has given the MTA approval to publish the draft Environmental Assessment for public comment. The project is slated to be completed sometime in 2025.

“As vaccination rates go up and COVID-19 abates, it’s time to refocus our efforts on the critical infrastructure projects we need to deliver for New York’s future and economic recovery from the pandemic,” Governor Cuomo said. “Connecting Metro-North to Penn Station has long been an important next step not just for New York City’s economic growth and development, but for protecting our environment and providing more equitable access to transit in our communities. This restarted selection process for a firm to build four new stations will expand access to transit in the Bronx and help to create a new corridor between Manhattan and the Mid-Hudson region.”

While the bid for the project is expected to be held soon, no firm date has been established as yet, according to an MTA spokesman. The MTA is preparing for a 45-day comment period that would accompany a formal environmental review of the project. As part of that process, the public will be able to review project documents online and at physical in-person sites in the Bronx, including the Morris Park Community Association and the Bronx Jewish Community Council, the MTA stated.

“The most cost-effective capital projects are those that squeeze more mass transit service out of existing infrastructure, rather than always building something new from scratch,” said Janno Lieber, president of MTA Construction & Development. “By rebuilding this under-utilized Amtrak rail line to accommodate new Metro-North service, this project will give East Bronx residents better access to jobs, education and a full range of opportunities.”

“This is an exciting project that will be as transformative for Metro-North as it is for the Bronx,” added Catherine Rinaldi, president of MTA Metro-North Railroad. “We look forward to doing everything we can to support this project to bring Metro-North service to an entirely new part of the Bronx and give customers on our New Haven Line—historically our busiest—a choice of new destinations as they plan their travel.”

Trains stopping at the four new Bronx stations will serve an extension of the New Haven Line, offering rail commutation options in the east Bronx to midtown Manhattan as well as points in Westchester County and Connecticut. The MTA noted that the commute from Co-op City to Penn Station, currently 75 minutes, will be cut to 25 minutes upon project completion. The commute from Hunts Point to Penn Station, currently 45 minutes, will be cut to 16 minutes.

Metro-North trains will use a rail line owned by Amtrak that has long been used by Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor trains, which travel through the area without stopping. This project will upgrade the line and update its infrastructure systems at the same time that it brings local MTA service to the line for the first time.

The last Metro-North station to be newly built where none had been before was also in the Bronx, at Yankees-E. 153rd Street, which opened on May 23, 2009.

The restart of the Metro North Penn Station access project was applauded by government and planning leaders.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said, “Ensuring equitable access to mass transit is important to reach underserved communities and reduce our reliance on less efficient means of transportation. Governor Cuomo has championed this infrastructure improvement for the entire region and I thank him for his dedication to getting it done despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This project is a critical step forward expanding opportunities to take mass transit in the Bronx and providing an economic conduit between the Mid-Hudson region and New York City.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer noted the project “is a commonsense step that will bring huge economic benefits to our county.” He added, “Governor Cuomo has championed this project and I am heartened to see it move forward, even in the midst of the terrible COVID-19 pandemic. This won’t just help commuters travel from Westchester to Manhattan; it will also help residents, businesses and families move from the Bronx to our county and provide new opportunities for commerce and economic development in the region.”

Regional Plan Association President & CEO Tom Wright said, “Penn Access is a terrific project, repurposing existing rail infrastructure to provide new capacity, connectivity and resiliency, and providing critical transit accessibility to historically under-served communities in the Bronx. RPA looks forward to working with communities and the MTA to make sure we take full advantage of this transformational investment.”

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