Aging Amtrak infrastructure affects all rail service

Amtrak says it is committed to improving conditions at Penn Station New York following two recent derailments. About half a million people use Penn Station every day. Many riders want to know why this seems to be happening more and more often.

Railroads were once considered the most reliable form of transportation. Now commuters and passengers on Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and Long Island Rail Road are becoming accustomed to a new normal no one wants: unexpected incidents, delays, and service cancellations.

Chris Jones of the Regional Planning Association says that part of the reason is fundamental: more and more people are traveling through a very congested area. The Penn Station infrastructure is more than 100 years old, Jones says. Service disruptions and derailments could increase if nothing is done, he says.

Infrastructure concerns prompted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to ask Amtrak, which owns and maintains the tracks, and the Federal Railroad Administration for an independent review.

But the FRA says it is already underway with Amtrak and that: "The incidents of March 24th and April 3rd at Penn Station are under FRA investigation and review; FRA will conduct a thorough examination of the entire Penn Station and infrastructure."

In a statement, Amtrak says: "This inspection will provide an independent assessment of the current conditions and recommendations for any needed improvements. We will immediately share these finding with NJ Transit and the Long Island Rail Road..."

But this inspection may not calm the safety fears of riders.

The four U.S. senators representing New York and New Jersey, all Democrats, are also speaking out. In a New York Times op-ed, Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Robert Menendez, and Cory Booker warn that if no major investments are made in the rail infra structure soon, it will only get worse.