MTA leaders seek Amtrak compensation; Amtrak says there’s ‘no basis’

MTA leaders seek Amtrak compensation; Amtrak says there’s ‘no basis’
A Long Island Rail Road train pulls into the East Williston station on the Oyster Bay branch. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

MTA officials threatened to withhold Long Island Rail Road funds from Amtrak earlier this week, in response to major renovations taking place at Penn Station that are expected to aggravate commuters and cost the MTA millions.

Amtrak is the main operator of Penn Station, which ferries hundreds of LIRR trains daily. It is also the subject of major summer renovations expected to close three tracks and cause temporary headaches and service delays for LIRR riders.

MTA interim Executive Director Veronique Hakim responded at a Wednesday MTA Board meeting that they intend to further investigate their “rights and abilities” to withhold payments to Amtrak.

The announced construction came after a wave of signal problems, delays and two train derailments over the last few months. Amtrak has said that the summer track work, while inconvenient, is necessary to address long-term infrastructure problems.

The expected service disruptions prompted the MTA to add ferry routes, buses and more car trains for LIRR riders to mitigate the effects of construction commuters.

The MTA then decided to offer a 25 percent fare reduction for passengers traveling to Hunterspoint Avenue and Atlantic Terminal. It also includes trains diverted to these stations from Penn, as well as customers traveling to Long Island City, Nostrand Avenue and East New York.

LIRR riders will also be given free transfers on the subways at Atlantic and Hunterspoint Avenue.

The exact cost of paying for LIRR fare reductions and alternative transportation hasn’t been made clear yet. But Amtrak said that the MTA withholding $46 million in payments to them to pay for these disruptions would harm consumers and violate longstanding agreements.

“Amtrak believes such action is in clear violation of our agreements with LIRR and that the LIRR has no basis to seek compensation for such costs from Amtrak,” C.W. Moorman, chief executive officer of Amtrak, wrote in a letter to MTA officials.

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