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Plans for New York's Penn Station Include a Link to Metro-North

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
A rendering of what Penn Station in New York could look like after a complete overhaul.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to make Penn Station even more of a major hub for transportation.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has some big changes planned for Penn Station in New York City. Among them: he wants to connect it to Metro-North, with a plan to build four new stations in The Bronx.

Penn Station is not the most beautiful gateway to the city, and Cuomo has acknowledged that. He wants to improve the station as an experience, so the place is less like a dark rat’s maze, and more of a dignified entry point for city visitors and residents.

Cuomo also wants to make Penn Station even more of a major hub for transportation. It’s already the place to catch an Amtrak train, and the bus terminal is nearby. MegaBus also operates in the area, and the Long Island Railroad connects to Penn. Cuomo wants to enhance these connections with a new tunnel underneath the Hudson River and an expansion of the LIRR with an additional track. He also wants to establish a rail connection from Penn to La Guardia Airport.

Adding a connection to Metro-North could streamline the travel experience for commuters from Connecticut and all of New England. It means travelers could take a bus from points north to a Metro-North station in Connecticut, and easily reach a lot of other places in the country – without having to go through Grand Central Station first.

On WNPR’s Where We Live, WNYC senior editor Matthew Schuerman explained the idea of connecting Metro-North and Penn Station. “The idea has been around for about 15 years or so,” he said. “It would tap the Metro-North New Haven line into Amtrak’s line, which goes actually from The Bronx into Queens, and then from Queens into Manhattan – unlike the New Haven line now, which goes directly from The Bronx down Manhattan, down Park Avenue.”

It would only require three miles worth of new track, Schuerman said. 

“But the other thing he’s working on – and the part of it that’s really gotten a lot of attention down here -- is to redevelop Penn Station itself,” Schuerman said. “It was once this grand landmark. It was torn down in the early 60s, and basically subverted below Madison Square Garden. So he has put out a couple of different options that would simply bring more sunlight down into the tracks, reconfigure a lot of the concourses down there, and make it a more pleasant commuting experience.”

In his State of the State address this week, Cuomo called Penn Station miserable, grossly over capacity and underperforming. “Amtrak owns it,” he said. “It is unwelcoming, and it is unacceptable. If Vice President Biden was critical of La Guardia airport, we’re only lucky he didn’t take a train and end at Penn.”

Schuerman said people have been complaining about Penn Station ever since the original station was torn down. “It’s hard to navigate; it’s dark; it’s miserable; it’s crowded – all of those things that he talked about,” Schuerman said. “And you may know that there has been a similar plan on the drawing board for about 20 years.”

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan developed a plan to convert the post office near Penn Station into a train concourse years ago. Some construction has even been underway, and Schuerman said it'll open later this year.

For now, Cuomo has invited bids from developers, due within 90 days. Cuomo's office has said it could cost around $3 billion.

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