When the Long Island Rail Road’s long-awaiting East Side Access project wraps up sometime later this decade, the MTA will shift numerous trains from Penn Station to Grand Central, and Metro-North riders bound for the West Side could stand to benefit from the move. With space available at Penn Station in a few years, the MTA is exploring a way to bring Metro-North westward, and the Bronx could gain a few more commuter rail stations if all goes according to plan.
“Metro-North is currently performing a Federal Environmental Assessment for the introduction of its rail service from the Hudson and New Haven Lines to Penn Station,” Aaron Donovan, authority spokesman, said to me in an email. “The review includes potential stations along Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line in the vicinity of Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point. We anticipate completing this assessment in 2013.”
Earlier this week, MTA officials met with various stakeholders in the Bronx to discuss progress on the Federal Environmental Assessment. The Bronx Times was on hand to report on the meeting, and all involved spoke highly of the plan. “This is an idea that has been around for decades, and the meeting was just a preliminary step where the MTA wanted to gauge the reaction of elected officials and stakeholders, with the reaction being very positive,” John DeSio, a spokesman out of the Bronx Borough President office, said.
Patrick Rocchio had more:
The final plan could include the creation of new stations along Metro North’s New Haven line that would service Co-op City near Erskine Place, Morris Park near Einstein Medical Center and the Hutchinson Metro Center, Parkchester in the vicinity of Unionport Road and E. Tremont Avenue, and Hunts Point near Southern Boulevard, said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.
Space for the extra trains coming into Penn Station from the new stations should be available in 2016, after Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access Plan re-routes many of the trains currently terminating at Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal, Benedetto said. “They do expect this to happen, and therefore they want to start planning now so things are ready when space is freed up in Penn Station,” Benedetto said.
The public should not expect new Metro North stations in the Bronx in the next couple of years, even though construction theoretically could begin on the four new Bronx stations before space becomes available at Penn Station, Benedetto said.
In the Bronx, residents and property owners were thrilled with the idea of a direct line to Penn Station. “A new train station in Co-op City would enable commuters to get to Penn Station within 25 minutes, which is very welcome news to many residents of this great community,” Vernon Cooper, the general manager of Riverbay Corporation, said.
Meanwhile, early reports indicate that costs could be fairly reasonable. The Bronx Times reports that the project would come in at $350 million — $250 million from New York State and $100 million from Connecticut — a figure in line with the $91 million it cost to build one new Metro-North stop near Yankee Stadium.
Long-time MTA watchers may know this project, in vague terms, as the Penn Station Access Study. I’ve been told that the scoping documents and project plans for the early 2000s are now out of date, and the MTA plans to release more information later this year or early next. Still, this could be a relatively low-cost way to improve access from the Bronx and points north to the West Side, and I’ll keep an eye on it.