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Federal rail agency agrees Penn Station work urgently needed

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Railroad Administration on Friday confirmed what Amtrak, elected officials and hundreds of thousands of commuters at the nation’s busiest rail station already knew: Immediate track maintenance and repair efforts are needed at Penn Station.

The FRA joined Amtrak and New York state inspectors on a review of all 21 tracks following two derailments at Penn Station in Manhattan. The inspections found maintenance issues including loose or missing track clamps, bolts or braces and insufficient fasteners in track segment or rail joints.

Amtrak, which operates the station that also includes Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit commuter lines, “took immediate and appropriate actions to repair or mitigate these risks or institute remedial actions until proper repairs could be made,” the FRA said.

The remedial action in a majority of cases included lowering track speeds from 15 mph to 10 mph.

Two derailments in the last several weeks, a power failure, signal problems and other issues at Penn Station have pushed Amtrak to begin replacing aging tracks and other equipment at the station, a critical part of travel on the Northeast Corridor, between Washington, D.C., and Boston.

“As we have previously stated, the joint inspection found issues, all of which have either been addressed or will be addressed in the coming weeks during normal maintenance schedules,” Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds said in a statement Friday.

A day earlier, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for a private operator to take over operations at Penn Station from Amtrak.

Cuomo, a Democrat, and Christie, a Republican, said long-term changes in management must go hand in hand with “intense and immediate repairs.” They also want the right to approve any private contractor selected by Amtrak, which owns and operates Penn Station.

An April 3 derailment was blamed on weakened wooden cross-ties beneath a portion of track. The FRA and Amtrak determined the March 24 derailment was caused by a mismatched rail joint.

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