MTA Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim announced during today’s LIRR committee meeting that the railroad will be freezing all payments to Amtrak.
Hakim stated that this was due to Amtrak’s upcoming “summer of hell” maintenance program at Penn Station, and the severe impacts it will have on the LIRR’s service. Other MTA officials also said that the agency expected Amtrak to pay for its summer alternative service options, which are meant to serve customers negatively affected by the repairs
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, as well as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have previously floated the idea of withholding payments from Amtrak, but they did not appear as serious threats at the time.
Amtrak, however, does not share the MTA’s point of view regarding the extra costs. In a statement from spokesman Mike Tolbert, the railroad said that, “MTA shouldn’t presume that Amtrak will pay for […] any costs while we do the major renewal work at Penn Station”. The agency did say that they were, “fully committed to undertaking investments that will make Penn Station more reliable”, and that the funds that commuter railroads provide for their proportional usage of Amtrak-owned infrastructure are essential to that.
Updated at 5:00pm with statement from Amtrak spokesman.