The ongoing cancellation and combining of trains due to problems in the East River Tunnels and other portions of the LIRR system due to weather, signal, power or other issues will continue for years to come. There is also ongoing Amtrak Penn Station and LIRR East Side Access work especially around Harold Interlockings west of Woodside.
There is no room to run additional trains into or out of Penn Station during rush hours via the East River tunnels with connections to Long Island. This has been the case for decades.
Three of four tunnels run inbound morning and evening rush hours. They have tight spacing between trains. One tunnel is shared by the LIRR, NJ Transit and Amtrak for reverse train movements, with equally tight spacing during rush hours. There is no platform capacity at Penn Station to accommodate additional rush hour trains. Penn Station is currently operating at 100 percent capacity.
Amtrak has delayed the decades overdue major repairs to the four East River tunnels until after the LIRR begins service into Grand Central Terminal in 2023. Delaying the start of work by six years from 2019 to 2025 will increase costs by 300 percent to $1 billion. Continued deterioration of the East River Tunnels over this time period could result in an increased scope of work and accompanying service disruptions. Combined with responses to the procurement process from contractors, this could then result in a final price tag of several hundred million more than the current engineers estimate. Only one of four East River Tunnels can be taken out of service at a time for reconstruction. It will take one to two years to finish work on each tunnel. This means canceled and combined trains for years to come. As a result, this project may not be completed until 2032. Until this work is over, it is impossible to increase rush hour Penn Station capacity and guarantee reliable uninterrupted service.
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