Working on the railroad: Ritchie Torres is forcing Amtrak to get smart on tunnel repairs

Daily News Editorial Board, New York Daily News

May 06, 2021

Originally published in New York Daily News on May 06, 2021.

Freshman Rep. Ritchie Torres has a legitimate beef with Amtrak. Born 50 years ago this week, the railroad daily runs many trains through his South Bronx district, yet never once has even a single train ever stopped to allow Bronxites to use the service they host.

The MTA wants to build four Bronx stations to let people ride into Penn Station and out to Westchester and Connecticut to get to jobs, but Amtrak is delaying those improvements by years, and pushing costs ever higher, by refusing to use the proven, innovative method of repairing tracks while trains continue running. So Torres has introduced a bill, H.R. 3002, to require Amtrak to use repair-in-place. Pass it to save time and money.

What needs fixing are two of Amtrak’s 1910 East River tubes that were flooded in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy. Landlord Amtrak plans to close down its wet tubes one at time for gut rehab lasting who knows how long and displace the LIRR from one of its dry tubes once the East Side Access project opens in a few years. That will divert many LIRR trains to Grand Central for the duration. As for any new trains into Penn, like those long-promised ones from the Bronx, they’d have to wait and wait and wait.

There is a state Senate hearing tomorrow with Sen. Todd Kaminsky looking to stop the triple mess of an East River closure: 1) Existing LIRR routes to Penn will be drastically cut back, with schedules scrambled and commutes made hellish 2) Any true benefit of the $10 billion-plus East Side Access will put off for years and 3) Bronx service will remain a distant dream.

Repair-in-place avoids all these problems. It succeeded for the L and F trains, and London Bridge Associates shows it will also for Amtrak’s tunnels. Amtrak is doing minor repairs in place under the Hudson and must publish its still-secret scope of work. As for publishing, Torres is entering the LBA report into the Congressional Record. Good work.