New York, NY—Governor Andrew Cuomo officially led the ribbon cutting this week to announce the grand opening of the new, $1.6 billion-dollar, Moynihan Train Hall that passengers accessed New Year's Day.
The new train hall represents a significant milestone for passenger rail travel in New York, especially during a time when the region’s mass transit agencies have suffered significant hits to revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A project that was first proposed and advocated for by the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan decades ago, the new 255,000-square-foot train hall will go a long way in alleviating overcrowding at Penn Station, which before the pandemic, saw 700,000 passengers daily. That made it the busiest passenger transportation facility in the Western Hemisphere, and handled more passengers than all the region’s three major airports combined.
The station is also significant because it features a one-acre sky-lit atrium that is 92-feet high and will bathe passengers in natural light, compared to the nearly five-decades of passenger access without natural light at Penn Station.
The new train hall sits inside the James A. Farley Post Office Building between 8th and 9th Avenues in a space that once served as the Post Office’s mail sorting room. It is a historic building, in fact it was built by the same architects, McKim, Mead and White, who built the original Penn Station.
According to the Governor, the Farley Building was one of the first buildings landmarked under preservation laws established in the wake of the destruction of the sister structure. The Farley Building’s 200,000-square-foot stone façade, 700 windows, copper roof and steel trusses are among the many unique details that have been fully restored.
Meanwhile, the new station also features clear, consistent, state-of-the-art wayfinding and messaging, including dozens of high-res LED and LCDs throughout the facility.
The state’s Empire State Development spearheaded the project, which included a public-private partnership made up of transit agencies and real estate firms—Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Amtrak, MTA, Vornado Realty, The Related Companies and Skanska. The state contributed the most—$550 million— to the $1.6 billion cost.
The Governor also noted that construction of Moynihan generated an estimated economic impact of $5 billion, supporting more than 5,000 construction jobs and 11,000 indirect jobs.
While the new station ushers in a state-of-the art transit hall that is deserving of New York and will ease passenger capacity at Penn Station post-pandemic, the hall does not add any track capacity.
There’s a plan to do that, but it’s languished during President Donald Trump’s tenure. The Gateway Tunnel Project, part of the massive, $30-billion Gateway Program, would add two new tunnels under the Hudson River.
But transit advocates are hopeful. Indeed, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a transit advocacy organization that champions a strong multi-modal transportation network for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, in a statement said that the Biden Administration is expected to move ahead with the Program.
“We must move ahead quickly to build this critical part of the Northeast Corridor. Once complete, train capacity between New York and New Jersey will nearly double and the region will have more reliable and resilient rail service.”