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Amtrak glimpses plans ahead of summer repairs

The repair work originally had a 2 to 3 year plan, but will be fast-tracked in July and August, causing service delays and disruptions

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At the heart of the Penn Station commuter chaos is the site of extensive repair work that will cause delays and headaches for most of the summer.

An interlocking, as Amtrak calls it, is a crisscrossing series of tracks where two tracks spider out into 21 tracks inside Penn Station.

Amtrak's vice president of operations, Michael DeCataldo, says this junction will be getting a whole lot of upgrades.

“It is the replacement of the ballast. It's the replacement of ties. New steel; new switches. It all works as one component,” said DeCataldo.

The repair work was originally part of a 2 to 3 year plan, but after the derailments and other major issues within the past few months, the plan was fast-tracked to take place between July and August this summer.

The repair work, of course, will spell more headaches for commuters like Kawa Shima, Joyell Dempsey and Charbel Saouma, who obviously are not looking forward to it.

“I'm very concerned about it,” said Shima, of Rahway.

“I'm trying to avoid it, so I’ve been taking the path every day from New York,” said Dempsey of Belleville.

Saouma recalled, “I regularly have to go to the city, and it would be good if things go well.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has also been publicly critical of Amtrak, went as far as saying this week that Amtrak couldn't be trusted due to its inability to keeps its infrastructure in good repair.

In terms of the work, DeCataldo says three tracks will be closed at a time, as staging and removal of old equipment will also be going on, during the repair work on the third track.

In addition to the closed tracks, the replacing of the 'switches', the movable tracks, could make it more difficult for dispatchers to reroute. Still, DeCataldo maintains that Amtrak has things under control.

“They have really done a lot of analysis and we are very confident that the schedule we have prepared is something that we can deliver,” said DeCataldo.

There is no word yet on how the work will affect train schedules because final details have not been fully released, but Amtrak says they are negotiating with New Jersey Transit.

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