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Plans for a Penn Station Transformation

January 13, 2016

On January 6th New York Governor Cuomo presented a plan to transform Penn Station and the adjacent Farley Post Office into a world-class transportation hub. The project is being called the Empire Station Complex and is estimated to cost $3 billion.

Over the years many proposals have been put forth that would transform Penn Station but little progress has been made. Development has been stagnant this past decade due to the logistical nightmare of moving Madison Square Garden, which sits on top of Penn Station.

Penn Station is designed to accommodate 200,000 daily passengers connecting from Amtrak, subway stations and the Long Island Rail Road. However, this outdated facility is overburdened and over capacity with daily service bringing in 650,000 passengers making it the busiest station in North America. The goal of the new design is to address these issues and create a station that can meet the demands of further increases of ridership.

The project can be understood in three parts: redeveloping Penn Station, converting the Farley Post Office into a grand train hall and connecting the two through underground concourses to create one major transit hub.

Governor Cuomo’s presentation includes a number of design options for renovating Penn Station, most of which focused on building a grand entrance that would increase accessibility and provide natural light to the dimly lit station. The other focus is to reconfigure existing corridors, ticketing and waiting areas to simplify navigation and reduce congestion

The Farley Post Office would be the new train hall for Amtrak and at 210,000 feet would be similar in size to the main room at Grand Central Terminal. The plan includes new escalators, elevators and stairs to improve navigation and passenger flow. Retail space is also an important aspect of the new design in order to draw private investment for the project.

At the announcement the plan was set forth with a Request for Proposal (RFP) and a Request for Expressed Interest (RFEI) with responses due in 90 days. Private partners can choose to either submit proposals to redevelop Penn Station alone, the Farley Post Office alone or design both projects.

Similar work is being done to improve Chicago’s Union Station. Amtrak is in the process of reviewing RFPs and Requests for Information (RFI) regarding a Master Development Plan for the station and surrounding land. Union Station, like Penn Station, is operating well above capacity and needs to meet the demands of growing ridership. These stations have the potential to become symbols of a brighter future for passenger rail in the United States.


Dylan Hayward
Manager of Communications

You can read more about Governor Cuomo’s proposal here.

Last Week at MHSRA:

Last week MHSRA helped create and became a member of the Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric (CMME). This coalition is made up of south side Chicago community and advocacy groups. CMME is working with Metra to have more frequent service, integrated fares with CTA and Pace using the Ventra card and an extension to O’Hare Airport on the Metra Electric line — all of which, are components of CrossRail Chicago.


How to Transform Penn Station: Move the Garden
“While it was encouraging that the governor championed Penn’s cause it was odd that he channeled (Robert) Moses only to come up with what sounded like glassy new lobbies and shopping malls to improve the station’s ambience. He passed on the really big idea: moving Madison Square Garden. Penn Station needs to grow, fast, with new passenger rail tunnels under the Hudson River to accommodate booming demand.”

The New Penn Station Will Inherit an Old Problem
“It won’t be hard for the public to fall in love with the pictures. But what they don’t show is the lingering, complex, expensive, and increasingly urgent problem any new station will still have with that basic mission of a rail hub: moving trains.”

California Rail Builders Consortium to Build Next Section of High Speed Line
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Amtrak CEO: ‘We Have a Safe Rail System’
Interview with Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman that covers the safety of the rail system, the future of Amtrak and advice for the next CEO.

Guest Editorial: SF Needs to Get Serious About Connecting Caltrain
"The new Transbay Transit Center (TTC) is scheduled for completion in 2017...The heart and foundation of the TTC is Caltrain and High Speed Rail. With the right leadership, Caltrain can be running into the station by 2023. Without it, San Francisco will have built a humongous bus stop and a monument to civic incompetence. "

Upcoming Events:

Japan High-Speed Rail Tour

We are planning the tour for October of 2016. 

This trip will give everyone an opportunity to enjoy the rich history of train travel the country offers. We are creating an itinerary that includes riding the first high-speed rail line, visiting at least one railroad museum and meetings with experts in the field. We have already begun making contacts to arrange technical visits and train tours. Once we have received 10 fully refundable deposits we will finalize the details of the trip.

Please click here if you would like to learn more or are interested in joining the trip.

Please click here if you are ready to make a $500 fully-refundable deposit for the trip.

Dylan Hayward
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625