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    First day of Penn Station track repairs goes mostly smoothly for commuters

    The repairs at Amtrak-owned Penn Station in New York City are extensive.
    Richard Drew
    The repairs at Amtrak-owned Penn Station in New York City are extensive.

    NEW YORK — Commuters in and out of New York City handled Monday’s first day of extensive repair work to the nation’s busiest train station without any major issues.

    Hundreds of thousands of commuters dealt with some confusion, a bit of overcrowding, and some delays at the start of what figures to be an arduous two-month period.

    Some seemed bewildered by a new routine devised to accommodate major repairs to tracks and signals at Penn Station, but others said the commute wasn’t much affected, and the transit agencies were exhaling.


    ‘‘A lot of confusion and too many people gathered in one space,’’ Lex Marshall, 35, of Morristown, N.J., said at New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal. ‘‘Everybody’s just bumping into each other, pushing each other.’’

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    Jesse Krakow, of South Orange, N.J., who transferred at Hoboken, described being packed ‘‘like sardines’’ on a Port Authority Trans-Hudson train that stopped several times between stations as it waited for other trains up ahead. He said his trip took about 45 minutes longer than normal.

    Elsewhere, some took advantage of alternatives put in place by the Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit to accommodate overflows due to reduced rush-hour train service.

    Vicki Kapotis, of West Orange, N.J., rode the ferry for the first time from Hoboken in the morning and took a shuttle bus to her job. She planned on taking a PATH train home from a station a long block from Penn Station.

    ‘‘The morning was good; it has gone well so far,’’ she said. ‘‘I am a little nervous because NJ Transit was kind of empty this morning. I don’t know if a lot of people were staying home. We’ll see what happens by the end of the week.’’


    The work was initially scheduled for nights and weekends over a few years, but two recent derailments and other problems that spotlighted the station’s aging infrastructure convinced Amtrak to accelerate the schedule.

    For commuters on the Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit — as well as Amtrak passengers who ride between Boston and Washington — the work means fewer trains during peak periods. The station handles about 1,300 daily train movements. Roughly 600,000 people pass through each day on the three railroads and on New York City subways.

    NJ Transit spokesman Charles Ingoglia declared the morning commute a success, but said there was room for improvement, including directing people to a less crowded PATH entrance. ‘‘We’re pleased with what we saw,’’ he said. ‘‘Our customers seem to have done their homework.’’

    The work is scheduled to last through the end of August. When it’s completed, rail riders will benefit from increased reliability from the up-to-date equipment in and around the station, but could still fall prey to other problems, such as electrical wire failures in the tunnel between New York and New Jersey and signal and track problems in northern New Jersey.

    Those problems will have to wait for the completion of the Gateway project, which calls for building a second rail tunnel under the Hudson River, repairing damage in the existing tunnel from 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, and making substantial improvements on the New Jersey side and in Penn Station.


    That work is expected to take at least another decade, although federal funding for the project is in question because President Trump proposed changing a federal grant program that was supposed to fund it.

    Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Cory Booker called on the Trump administration to honor that commitment at a news conference Monday. Booker said it’s time for Trump to ‘‘put up or shut up.’’

    While Monday’s commute went about as well as it could for most, the real test won’t come until the weather, equipment problems, or police activity interrupts service.

    ‘‘The measure is how good are you when things are bad,’’ Ingoglia said.