The plan to reconfigure the train station millions of New Jersey residents use to commute to work or visit New York City took a significant step forward last week.
Gov. Phil Murphy took part in an announcement June 10 with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), in partnership with Amtrak and NJ Transit, is requesting proposals from architecture and engineering firms to guide the New York Penn Station Reconstruction effort recently outlined in the Penn Station Master Plan study that was announced in the Fall.
The plan calls for the transformation of the West Side neighborhood into a modern, spacious, light-filled facility that is easy to navigate, while revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood to prioritize investment in affordable housing, increase transit access and shared streets, and create a pedestrian-friendly streetscape.
Fixing Penn Station
“As the centerpiece of one of the most important transportation networks in the world, Penn Station requires an atmosphere and appearance that reflect its tremendous importance to the region,” said Murphy. “For several decades Penn Station has not provided New Jersey commuters and visitors with the comfort and convenience they deserve.”
“The transformation of Penn Station into a world-class, commuter-focused transportation facility befitting the central hub of the greatest city in the world cannot come soon enough,” added Hochul. “We have shared a vision of a single-level unified station with soaring ceilings that welcome natural light, clear, intuitive sightlines, more circulation space and more connectivity to streets and platforms.
New Station Details
Officials said Penn reconstruction will modernize the concourse experience for passengers with improved platform connectivity, streamlined wayfinding and enhanced amenities. The future expansion of Penn Station will add track and platform capacity and be fully integrated with a reconstructed Penn Station.
In accordance with the master plan developed by MTA and its partner railroads, the rebuilt station will:
- Integrate train boarding and all public functions and amenities on a single level with broad concourses and high ceilings;
- Create a main concourse on the east side of the station that will be considerably larger than the areas of Moynihan Train Hall and Grand Central Terminal combined ;
- Double the ceiling height of the public concourses ;
- Establish clear sightlines to platform entrances to provide intuitive travel paths through the station;
- Increase the number of stairs, escalators and elevators to the station’s 11 platforms by 33%; and
- Improve/enlarge pedestrian entrances
Making it Better
Murphy stressed the construction must be done with Gateway Tunnel Project in mind, ensuring the commuter experience is improved from the dark labyrinth that currently resides under Madison Square Garden.
The new Moynihan Train Hall, where the press event was held, seemingly provides a blueprint to overhaul Penn Station. Moynihan architects eliminated the bulk of the first subterranean level to open up the main concourse to natural light, increasing safety and security, significantly expanding passenger circulation areas, expanding entrances and exits, and making it easier for passengers to navigate within the station and to connect to their destinations beyond.
“As a result of partnerships across agencies and state lines, we are prepared to take the next step toward the long-awaited transformation of this pivotal transportation hub,” said Murphy. “The new tunnels don’t mean much if passengers are herded into the same old Penn Station. We are working toward a shared vision brought to reality.”
$6 Billion Price Tag
The reconstruction of the station is expected to cost between $6-7 billion dollars and is estimated to be completed five to six years after the start of construction. Officials also are looking to the Biden administration’s infrastructure law to provide 50% of the project cost or more.
“With this announcement, the MTA is taking a concrete step toward making that vision a reality,” said Hochul. “Thanks to the efforts of the Biden Administration and our congressional delegation, new federal resources are available to assist in creating a new Penn Station for the entire region.”
Additionally, Empire State Development (ESD) announced the creation of the Penn Station Area Public Realm Task Force, which will advise on how to to revitalize and beautify the area around Penn Station, including reimagined streetscapes and new open spaces.
Build Back Better
Hochul said the ESD and the task force will also work closely with the New York City Department of City Planning to ensure its work is coordinated and consistent with the city’s broader public realm planning goals.
Murphy stated that anyone that had to commute thought the current station knows how badly the upgrade is needed.
“Daily commuters, occasional visitors—regardless of which direction they are traveling—deserve a Penn Station that is inviting and comfortable,” he said. “They deserve better than the continually cramped and constantly muggy halls and claustrophobic, low-slung ceilings; they deserve better than the current maze of walkways that deserve their own page on Google Maps.”