New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a hugely ambitious plan to transform rail transport in Manhattan and transform the much maligned Penn Station into a world-class transportation hub. The project, known as the Empire Station Complex, will feature significant passenger improvements, including new amenities, natural light, increased train capacity and decreased congestion, and improved signage to aiming to significantly enhance the travel experience. The project – which is anticipated to cost $3 billion – will be expedited by a public-private partnership in order to break ground this year and complete substantial construction within the next three years.The original Penn Station first opened in 1910, and its underground areas have remained in continual use since then. In its current form, the station is designed to accommodate 200,000 daily passengers. In practice, it is the busiest train station in North America, serving more than 650,000 passengers every day, and is plagued by widespread pedestrian congestion and outdated facilities. The Governor’s proposal will address these current shortcomings and transform the facility into a modern, iconic gateway to New York that is capable of meeting the demands of increased ridership in the 21st century.
“Penn Station is the heart of New York’s economy and transportation network, but it has been outdated, overcrowded, and unworthy of the Empire State for far too long,” said Governor Cuomo. “We want to build Penn Station to be better than it ever was, and that is exactly what we are going to do. This proposal will fundamentally transform Penn Station for the 21st century, and we are excited to move forward with the project in the days to come.”
The existing Penn Station facility, which lies beneath Madison Square Garden and between 7th and 8th Avenues, will be dramatically renovated. The project will widen existing corridors, reconfiguring ticketing and waiting areas, improve connectivity between the lower levels and street level, bring natural light into the facility, improve signage, simplify navigation and reduce congestion, and expand and upgrade the retail offerings and passenger amenities on all levels of the station. The new station will include Wi-Fi, modernized train information displays and streamlined ticketing.
Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said at the announcement: “Amtrak appreciates Governor Cuomo’s leadership, vision and commitment to the expansion of passenger rail capacity here in New York. We’re proud to work closely with the Governor, the Empire State Development Corporation and others on his team to help lead a rail renaissance in Manhattan…”
The simultaneous redevelopments will be advanced by a public-private partnership on an unprecedented scale, resulting in one holistic and interconnected world-class station. Solicitations to developers will be issued by the state (which owns the Farley Post Office) and Amtrak (which owns Penn Station) this week. Responses are due in 90 days.
The construction cost is expected to be in excess of $3 billion, including $2 billion to redevelop Farley and Penn into a world-class transportation hub and at least $1 billion for ancillary retail and commercial developments between 7th and 9th avenues. $325 million of this will come from government sources, including USDOT, Port Authority and Amtrak. Nearly all of the work will be funded by private investment, in exchange for an interest in the long-term revenue stream generated by the retail and commercial rents.
In light of years the public has waited for this important infrastructure upgrade, work will be expedited, with completion expected in the next three years, and Farley opening before Penn Station’s redevelopment is finished. State and federal environmental review has already been completed on redevelopment plans for the Farley Building, clearing a major hurdle and lining the project up for work to begin. The redevelopment builds on work already underway beneath the Farley Building, in which construction of the lower concourse and underground connections to the subway and Penn Station is on budget and on schedule, for completion in the fall of 2016. With the structural steel completed in January 2015, more than 300 workers are now on site each day fitting out the new commuter concourse west of 8th Avenue in preparation for its opening next fall. Renovations to Penn Station and redevelopment of the Farley building are expected to begin after that work is completed.
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