Sources tell The Chronicle that Governor Kathy Hochul is directing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to construct a new Metro North transit station in the Astoria section of Queens, which will give the borough newfound commuter access to Connecticut and the eastern shore of Westchester County. An official announcement will be made in the coming weeks.
The new station will sit on the railroad corridor known as the Hell Gate Line, currently being improved as part of the long-planned West Side Access Project, which will enable commuter rail riders from Connecticut to directly access Penn Station by crossing Hell Gate Bridge into Queens before entering Manhattan via the East River Tunnel.
It will accommodate both Metro North service on it’s New Haven Line. It’s also hoped that Governor Hochul’s newly proposed Interborough Express service between Brooklyn and Queens will also serve the Astoria station. Some transit advocates would also like Amtrak’s trains to service at the station, since they will pass through the corridor anyway, though that would require additional approvals by federal regulators.
The new project will be included in Phase Two of the West Side Access Project.
The West Side Access project will add new tracks along the Hell Gate Line right-of-way, relocate, reconfigure, and add new interlockings, realign and install new catenaries, replace and repair under-grade bridges, upgrade existing AC substations, and construct new AC substations.
An agreement for the first phase was reached in early 2019, and New Haven Line trains are tentatively expected to run into Penn Station in 2027, after the complimentary East Side Access Project opens. The expanded services will operate at Moynihan Train Hall, Amtrak‘s service wing of Penn Station.
“This is all part of Governor Hochul’s vision for a more multi-polar, decentralized New York — a region that is far less Manhattan-centric, where mass transit infrastructure enables residents to commute to work in every which direction,” an advisor to MTA Chairman Janno Lieber explains. “Hochul understands that Manhattan is less populated than Brooklyn, or Queens, or the Bronx — and she genuinely wants to improve folks’ lives.”
The second phase of the project will bring Hudson Line trains into Penn Station using Amtrak’s Empire Connection, which runs on Manhattan’s West Side. The Empire Connection branches off from the Hudson Line near Spuyten Duyvil station, and is currently used by Amtrak’s Empire Corridor trains traveling from Upstate New York and Canada.
Hochul is planning new Metro North stations in Hell’s Kitchen, behind Lincoln Center, and at the foot of 125th Street. Those stations will accommodate Metro North’s Hudson River Line service to Poughkeepsie.
The majority of the Empire Connection is not yet electrified, so electric railcars in use on the Hudson Line would be unable to travel to Penn Station until the line is fully electrified. The former NYC lines, including the Hudson Line, use under-running third rail. Tracks in Penn Station and on the LIRR use over-running third rail. Any Metro-North cars travelling from the Hudson Line to Penn Station would have to be specially equipped to operate with both current collection systems.
The West Side Access project was initiated on September 2, 1999 when the Federal Transportation Administration issued a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. Penn Station access originally considered included Hudson and New Haven service, via the Empire Connection and Hell Gate Line, respectively — but also access to the Harlem Line access via rights of way at Mott Haven and Spuyten Duyvil. At the time, Harlem Line access was judged to be too complicated to pursue. Hochul does not plan to revisit that determination.