The busiest commuter railway in the US is falling apart

Amtrak will shut down several tracks along the Northeast Corridor to make long-overdue rail repairs, a move set to cause mass delays to commuters travelling on the LIRR and NJ Transit, Amtrak announced at a press conference Thursday morning.

The Amtrak-funded project will cost “tens of millions of dollars,” Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman said during a press call.

The exact ramifications to commuters is still unclear, but Amtrak said it will first begin repairs on the western portion of Penn Station, which routes trains entering from Hudson River tunnels and the Long Island Railroad’s West Side Yard. Amtrak said the first phase of the track and switch renewal project will begin this summer and extend into September.

Commuters will experience the most delays over the summer, as Amtrak plans to reduce track work to the weekends in September. Amtrak will work on other station tracks through June 2018, mostly on weekends.

Commuters travelling in and out of Penn Station have likely been experiencing delays on a more regular basis prior to the Thursday announcement. Track maintenance caused delays during Monday’s morning rush, and Tuesday morning commuters suffered headaches when an Amtrak train got stuck.

There were two train derailments within a two-week time span at Penn Station this year due to problems with the track. No one was seriously injured as a result of the incidences.

“The events of the past month have shown that we need to step up our game there,” Moorman said. “We need to get in and accelerate a renewable program that was schedule to take place over another two or three years.”

The Northeast Corridor supports the LIRR, NJ Transit, and Amtrak routes between Washington D.C. and Boston with stops along the way. The NEC is Amtrak’s only profitable line and serviced 11.9 million riders during the 2016 fiscal year.

The average age of the NEC’s backlogged projects is 111 years old, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card, an assessment of the nation’s infrastructure that comes out every 4 years. It requires $US28 billion in repairs.

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