JavaScript seems to be disabled in your browser. For the best experience on our site, be sure to turn on Javascript in your browser


A Bronx Game Changer - MTA’s Penn Station Access Project

by Howard Cohen

Although first contemplated in the 1970’s, the Bronx will finally benefit from a major public transportation project. The Penn Station Access Project is anticipated to be completed in 2024. This Project will improve the lives of thousands of Bronx residents, by providing new transit alternatives, shorter commute times, job opportunities, economic growth, quality of life and environmental benefits. It is further anticipated that Bronx property owners and developers will benefit from these major changes.

In January 2019, a Memorandum of Agreement was reached among the MTA, Empire State Development and Amtrak, for the addition of four Metro-North Railroad stations (Parkchester/Van Nest, Morris Park, Co-op City and Hunts Point) to be built along an underutilized rail line in the East Bronx with access to Penn Station.

The infrastructure includes the usage of 15 miles of an existing Amtrak Line, and six miles of new rail upgrades. As a result, Bronx residents will have a “one-seat train ride” to and from Penn Station in Manhattan and the East Bronx, and access to Westchester and Connecticut via Metro-North’s New Haven line. In addition, this Project which provides a direct link to Penn Station, will provide passengers with seamless connections to other rail providers, including Amtrak, NJ Transit, LIRR and the PATH.

This project has been described as a “game changer” since it will improve the lives of tens of thousands of Bronx residents in currently underserved areas, create new job opportunities, and will significantly benefit the Bronx business community. Currently, the unemployment rate in the Bronx is 17.5 %.

The Project will create access to new job opportunities for Bronx residents, reduce the daunting travel times for residents, thereby improving their quality of life, introduce reverse commuting opportunities, and help area business and institutions attract employees. A significant percentage of Bronx residents commute to work by public transportation each day: Parkchester-Van Nest residents (61.2 %), Morris Park (41.3 %), Hunts Point (69.2 %), Co-op City (52.2 %), and will benefit from the Project.

In Parkchester/Van Nest, with a population of 67,000 residents, the median household income is $45,000.00. 40 % of Parkchester residents commute at least 90 minutes per day, each way.

In Morris Park, with a population more than 29,000 residents, the median household income is $65,000.00. 30% of Morris Park residents commute at least 90 minutes per day, each way.

In Co-op City, with a population more than 52,000 residents, the median household income is $50,000.00. 45% of Co-op residents commute at least 90 minutes per day, each way.

In Hunts Point, with a population more than 48,000 residents and the median household income is $25,500.00. 40% of Hunts Point residents commute at least 90 minutes per day, each way.

Commuters who travel between the East Bronx and Penn Station will save up to 45 minutes of travel time over current alternatives. Customers who travel between the East Bronx and New Haven Line stations will save up to 80 minutes of travel time over current alternatives. Metro-North customers who travel between existing New Haven Line stations and Penn Station (who now connect to subways to complete this trip) are projected to save 16 minutes each way.

NYC Planning anticipates that based upon this enormous time saving, Bronx residents will have more time to exercise and go to the gym, more time to socialize with friends at restaurants and bars, and more time to attend cultural events and family gatherings.

When completed, the new service will generate an economic boost and provide enhanced access to major medical 18 / and educational facilities, including Montefiore Medical Center, the Montefiore-affiliated Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and NYC Health + Hospitals’ Jacobi Medical Center, Hutchinson Metro Center, which are growing job centers near the Morris Park station, as well as to financial and job centers in Westchester and Connecticut. Furthermore, the commute to growing jobs centers, such as Hudson Yards, will be accessible via a 25-minute trip via new Metro-North service. It is anticipated that there will also be an economic boost to the retail corridors, restaurants and supermarkets, surrounding the four new Bronx Metro -North stations.

The MTA anticipates up to 50,000 customer trips will be made per day on the new route, including up to 20,000 that start or end at the four new stations in the Bronx.

The Project will also provide environmental benefits, since the new and reliable Metro-North service through the East Bronx will decrease vehicle miles traveled, reduce traffic congestion, and improve air quality

The Project includes an initial investment of $695 million from the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Program, of which $250 Million in State resources were provided by Empire State Development. The balance will be funded by MTA’s 2020- 2024 Capital Programs.

In February 2019, the general engineering contract was awarded to HNTB New York Engineering & Architecture, P.C. in February 2019, enabling this project team to begin preliminary engineering and design work.

Thereafter, in February 2020, the MTA selected three joint ventures to submit design-build proposals to bring MTA Metro-North Railroad service to New York Penn Station by 2024. The qualified design-build entities are: Halmar International LLC/RailWorks Corp. joint venture with Ove Arup & Partners P.C. as the lead designer; the Skanska ECCO III and Penn Station Connectors JV led by designer AECOM USA Inc.; and the Tutor Perini/O&G JV with Parsons Transportation Group of New York Inc. as the lead designer.

At the present time, the MTA has not announced which design build firm has been selected for the Project, nor has the MTA announced any changes to the anticipated 2024 completion date, as a result of the ongoing pandemic.