After Yearlong Pause, NY Approved To Start Long-Awaited Metro-North Expansion Project In The Bronx

The state is restarting a long-awaited plan to build four Metro-North stations in the Bronx, a year after the pandemic temporarily halted the project from advancing, state officials announced.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said this week that the state intends to review bids for the construction of the stations at four neighborhoods in the east Bronx. The project, dubbed Penn Station Access, will see the new stations built on Amtrak’s existing Hell’s Gate Line that starts in Boston and ends in Washington, D.C.

Under the plan, estimated to cost $1.5 billion, the stations will be built in the neighborhoods of Co-Op City, Morris Park, Parkchester, and Hunts Point. The neighborhoods are considered transit deserts as they require a bus and subway to get into Manhattan, making for a long commute. Metro-North trains on the New Haven Line will cut through the east side of the Bronx, and briefly travel through Queens, before arriving at Penn Station in Manhattan. The transit hub for the Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and subways, Penn Station already serves roughly 650,000 commuters daily.

Once the stations are built, commuters traveling from Co-Op City to Penn Station will shave their travel from 75 to 45 minutes. Commuters boarding a Metro-North train at Hunts Point can expect their ride to Penn Station to go from 25 minutes to 16 minutes. State projections estimate 160 trains stopping at all four stations daily, which Cuomo said is five times more than the number of Amtrak trains running through those tracks. Roughly 30,000 riders will enter a Metro-North train from one of the new stations daily, Cuomo said.

Cuomo characterized the project as a game-changer for those chosen neighborhoods, allowing for even more robust development.

“If you look at the parts of the city that have redeveloped quickly, you’ll notice that you all have one thing in common. They are all very accessible by train,” Cuomo said at a news briefing Thursday.

While the state had already set aside funds to build the project, it was waiting for federal approval to move the project forward. Cuomo said shortfalls from the MTA’s Capital Budget born from financial losses caused by the pandemic were the reason the project had stalled.

The pandemic was the latest in a series of delays for the project, which had stalled before because of funding and a lack of interest to kickstart it.

“This idea was something that was been kicked around for over 30, 35 years,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said at the news conference. “And when I first got to Borough Hall back in 2009, we found this proposal and we dusted it off and we started to push it.”

Diaz said the project will also help generate much-needed jobs to a borough whose unemployment rate stood at 14% during the height of the pandemic.

“This will create thousands of jobs, ladies and gentlemen, it will create opportunity for more housing,” Diaz said. “It will give us a shot in the arm to economic development.”

The news of the project was also hailed by Ranae Reynolds, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which looks to expand transit options for commuters in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

“The city and state are both working hard to fill in transit deserts, which is mission critical for ensuring a more equitable transportation network,” Reynolds said. “We look forward to seeing how Penn Station Access will integrate with the local subway and bus network, especially with NYC DOT’s plan for miles of new bus lanes in the Bronx and the MTA’s Bronx Bus Network Redesign. Together, these projects could be a game-changer for East Bronx accessibility.”

The project is expected to be completed by 2025.