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Preliminary Observations on the New York Penn Station Infrastructure Renewal Program

July 7, 2017  |  Other Audit Correspondence

Two derailments this spring at New York Penn Station (Penn Station) led to significant delays for Amtrak (the company) passengers and rail commuters across the New York City region, raising questions about the aging infrastructure at the nation’s busiest train station. In response, the company launched the New York Penn Station Infrastructure Renewal Program (Renewal Program), which company documents describe as compressing several years of planned construction work into about a one-year period. The Renewal Program began in May 2017 and is projected to finish in June 2018. This work period combines several months of planned weekend track outages—including two months of intensive continuous track outages—to renew important assets in various locations throughout the station. The continuous outage work is scheduled to take place from July 7 through September 4 this year. Much of the initial Renewal Program work focuses on “A” Interlocking—a critical set of tracks and switches that serves as a sorting mechanism on the west side of the station to route trains entering from the Hudson River tunnels. A diagram illustrating the complexity of the track work at the interlocking is included in Appendix A.

In May 2017, we began reviewing the Renewal Program (then in its early stages of formulation) to: (1) identify the factors that led to the current infrastructure conditions, (2) assess the company’s plans, estimated costs, schedule, and sources of funds being used to support the planned track and infrastructure repairs at Penn Station, and (3) evaluate the company’s efforts to mitigate passenger inconvenience resulting from the scheduled repair work.

Although our work is ongoing, we are providing these preliminary observations on risks in the company’s approach for managing the Renewal Program. Several company executives told us that the Renewal Program is the most critical challenge facing the company at this time, and our intent is to make the company aware of these risks as the program intensifies in order to help ensure its success. Our observations are based on interviews with company officials and our analysis of internal and external company documents. We also obtained documents and met with representatives from the two commuter railroads that share tracks and facilities with Amtrak in Penn Station—New Jersey Transit (NJT) and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).

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