Monday, September 14, 2009

Amtrak's Moynihan Station Plan May Move Ahead

The decision to destroy the old Penn Station was a travesty because of the grand architectural style and consigned Amtrak to a dank and depressing underground pavilion underneath Madison Square Garden. Former US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan had pressed for Amtrak to use the Farley Post Office across the street as its new grand entrance. After he passed away, the move to carry out Moynihan's vision has waxed and waned, but it now appears that there's new life in the proposal:
After months of negotiations — and years after it first pulled out of the project — Amtrak reached a preliminary agreement to move to an annex of Pennsylvania Station planned for the James A. Farley Post Office Building, state, federal and railroad officials announced on Sunday.

The deal, whose specifics have yet to be finalized or released, would clear one of the biggest hurdles facing Moynihan Station, which was first proposed more than 15 years ago and has struggled ever since.

Under the agreement, Amtrak agreed to relocate its services to a new train hall in the old post office, something it has been reluctant to do because of costs. The project aims to expand capacity and create an eye-catching new entrance to Penn Station, which is now underneath Madison Square Garden and would be connected to the annex.

“We haven’t seen the details, it sounds like a lot of those are still to be worked out, but this is very good news,” said Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit planning group. “I think we wouldn’t have seen this announcement if there wasn’t a strong sense that things are coming together.”
Senator Chuck Schumer and NYS Gov. David Paterson have been negotiating with Amtrak to move the process along. Of course, even with this agreement, there's one huge hurdle to overcome: the cost.

It will take anywhere from $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion to come to fruition. In flush times, such a project would be difficult, but the current economic climate makes it more so. Yet, the President has sought to expand Amtrak's funding, and this is one area in which he could improve matters.

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