Federal Funding for Penn Station Rehab Falls ShortNovember 13, 2023
The Democratic Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill two years ago, officially known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Biden signed. On page 1,008 of the 1,039-page law, there was a new initiative called the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program setting aside $36 billion over five years. $24 billion was specifically dedicated for the Northeast Corridor, running from Boston to Washington. The $24 billion could be used to upgrade the most prominent point of the NEC, Penn Station, the Amtrak-owned facility that everyone agrees is a disgrace.
Last November, the Amtrak-friendly Federal Railroad Administration made a list of projects on the NEC and divided them into two buckets. Bucket 1 was the first funding priority and Bucket 2 was considered a second funding priority, meaning it wasn’t a priority at all. Everything Amtrak wanted was in Bucket 1, including parts of its Gateway project, but Penn Station, serving far more passengers than anywhere else on the NEC, was in Bucket 2.
President Biden announced $16 billion in funding for the NEC last Monday, with everything on the Amtrak/FRA Bucket 1 list receiving funding. However, Penn Station received no funding, despite serving the most Amtrak and commuter passengers in the nation.
Other projects in Bucket 2 did receive funding, such as the Penn Station Access plan to build four new Metro-North stations in the Bronx and the two other Penn stations in Newark and Baltimore, but the main Penn Station in New York did not receive any funds.
Meanwhile, the estimated cost of rehabilitating Penn Station is in the billions, with no new funding identified by the MTA or Governor Hochul. The MTA estimates the price tag at $7 billion, while the bid put forward by ASTM has climbed from $6 billion to $8 billion. Amtrak is focusing on a $17 billion unnecessary Penn annex project that would destroy a full city block.
Overall, despite billions in federal funding specifically for the NEC, Penn Station received no funding, leaving its much-needed rehabilitation in limbo.