New Jersey commuters used to being jammed into a waiting area they’ve nicknamed “the pit” in New York’s Penn Station will get some much-needed breathing room.
Gov. Phil Murphy joined Amtrak and NJ Transit officials Wednesday to announce the expansion of NJ Transit’s Seventh Avenue concourse in Penn Station.
The plan, officials said, is to build out the congested concourse into waiting areas currently occupied by Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road riders (they are moving from the subterranean station to the more spacious Moynihan Station across Eighth Avenue).
NJ Transit commuters now crowd into the “pit,” a sunken waiting area in the Seventh Avenue concourse where they wait to see what tracks their trains will depart from. There are about 88,990 NJ Transit commuters at Penn Station every day, so one delay can result in crowding that can reach claustrophobic conditions.
The waiting room makeover will cost approximately $6.5 million, which is being funded on a 50/50 basis between Amtrak and NJ Transit, said Jason Abrams, an Amtrak spokesman. Construction is expected to start late spring or early summer, he said.
Amtrak and the LIRR plan to move their waiting areas to Moynihan in 2021. After that happens, NJ Transit also plans to redesign the Main Eighth Avenue Concourse, Murphy said. The revamp will also include a refreshed ticketed waiting room, better platform access, and improved street level entrances, he said.
The new waiting area will give NJ Transit riders easier access from Eighth Avenue and more space to navigate their way through the busy concourse, according to Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit executive director.
“It’s a first step for commuters rather than squeezing in the corner (of Penn Station),” Corbett said.
The project will be partly financed by back-payments NJ Transit owes Amtrak for rent and use of the Northeast Corridor line and Penn Station and other costs. Murphy estimated those payments — money former Gov. Chris Christie stopped payment on in 2017 after a rash of derailments in Penn Station — to total about $182 million.
In addition to the new Penn Station waiting area, the back-payments will also go toward repair projects on the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak officials said.
“Amtrak is committed to investing every nickel of it in New Jersey,” said Anthony Coscia, Amtrak board chairman.
Get the latest updates right in your inbox. Subscribe to NJ.com’s newsletters.