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As any Penn Station commuter will know all too well. the Amtrak lines have been under intense reconstruction since the start of July in an effort to make the busiest train station in America run more efficiently. The Infrastructure Renewal plan has been in the works since it was announced in late April. On July 21, Untapped Cities was allowed to get a special peek at the progress the construction crew has made thus far on the renewal of the “A interlocking” mechanism– one of the most crucial parts of the entire renewal plan. 

The beginning of the A Interlocking section of the track. 

The A Interlocking mechanism is essentially the critical sorting mechanism of the Amtrak, which is responsible for routing trains that enter Penn Station from the Hudson River tunnels and the Long Island Rail Road’s West Side Yard to the various station tracks and platforms.  The A Interlocking section, which is located just around the entrance to the 11 and 12 tracks at Penn Station, has been worked on each day since construction began July 7, in an effort to improve Amtrak efficiency and reliability at much more accelerated rate than the several-year plan that was initially proposed.

As of July 21, two weeks into construction, the Amtrak construction crew is currently on schedule to finish the reconstruction of the mechanism by the September 3, 2107 deadline. This past weekend marked the end of “Phase 1” of the renewal plan, which deals with several projects in relation to the mechanism.

The entire renewal plan itself won’t be complete until the end of 2018 as work on various station tracks is set to only be done on the weekends, however it was decided that the A Interlocking section couldn’t wait.

A map of the 21 tracks at Penn Station, with A Interlocking section and therefore, section to be repaired, highlighted in pink.
Diagram via .

“The simple fact of the matter is that some of the track and infrastructure in service today at Penn Station was built in the 1970s at a time when we were handling half the trains and a third of the customers that we do today,” Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman said in the April news release. “While a substantial amount of reconstruction has already been done at New York Penn Station, the remaining renewal work has been scheduled to take place over the next several years in order to minimize impacts on scheduled services. We can’t wait that long. This work needs to be done now.”

Significant progress had been made even in the first weekend (as can be seen in a time-lapse video running from July 7 – July 9), but now with five days to go till the end of Phase 1, there’s even more progress to share. Of the 10 tasks that were apart of Phase 1, three have been totally completed with the remaining seven all in the “installed” (nearly complete) category.

Overall, the plan for the September 3 deadline includes the entire rebuilding of Track 10 (Amtrak), renewal of all switches and valves, and the replacement of the entire switch turnouts using a specialized piece of on-track equipment called a “switch exchange system” that enables efficient replacement of switches. It’s also on the agenda to replace the timbers and core scissors tracks. According to the July 21 progress report, because of the tight conditions in Penn Station the whole scissor layout needs to be disassembled and the ties replaced and the scissor replaced with new components.

Stay up-to-date with the renewal process as time continues with the weekly progress reports on the the official Amtrak website.

Next, Check out the The Top 10 Secrets of the Original Pennsylvania Station in NYC or our Untapped Guide to Penn Station. Get in touch with the author: @Erika_A_Stark.

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