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Amtrak says direct service to New York will partially return Thursday

RENSSELAER — Service to Amtrak’s direct line between Albany and New York City is expected to be partially restored Thursday morning and fully restored Friday, officials confirmed Tuesday.

New York Mayor Eric Adams told reporters Tuesday partial service could be back by Thursday and completely restored by Friday. Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams confirmed the information Tuesday afternoon, saying one track would resume service first before the second resumed Friday.

Direct service has been suspended since Sunday because of structural issues from a building near the tracks in New York City. The passenger rail service initially offered little clue about when it would be restored.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Kathy Hochul said she was "outraged" that a service that thousands of New Yorkers use for commuting and long distance travel has been suspended for so long. "While we know it can be difficult to repair aging infrastructure, a delay of this length is unacceptable," the statement read.

Hochul said she is sending senior state leaders, including from the state Department of Transportation, to join New York City and Amtrak officials to visit the site that is causing problems "and determine a path forward."

Alexandra McCant, 37, a Guilderland resident who travels twice a week to New York City for work, was one of many travelers taking Amtrak to the Croton-Harmon station and then transferring to Metro-North — or doing the reverse to return from New York. But some of the Amtrak trains from the Westchester County station to Albany were canceled on Tuesday, according to Amtrak’s online schedule.

“It’s not a huge inconvenience, but the challenge was we weren’t informed ahead of time,” she said.

Diamond Owens, 20, was traveling from Rensselaer to North Carolina to see family this week when her train was canceled Monday. Her trip is now delayed by two days and she had to cancel her hotel reservation.

“I feel like I should be reimbursed at least for a day of travel,” Owens said.

Abrams previously said the company was focused on getting “this rectified as soon as possible.” He said Amtrak was in regular contact with the New York Department of Buildings, which on Friday found damage to a Manhattan parking garage that is above Amtrak’s rails.

“Safety is of the utmost importance,” Abrams said.

Amtrak said the temporary suspension arose due to “safety concerns stemming from structure issues of a non-Amtrak, privately owned building above the Empire Line Tracks in New York City.” An Amtrak spokesman said the building is a parking garage on West 51st Street in Manhattan.

The service is an important transportation link between the Capital Region and New York. The state Department of Transportation reported that 1.3 million passengers used the service in 2018-2019.

NBC-Channel 4 in New York reported the garage’s owner contacted an engineer on Friday about a hole in the entrance ramp of the parking garage, according to a Department of Buildings spokesperson. The station reported several city agencies inspected the garage, “finding cracked and deteriorating steel as well.”

A vacate order was issued by the buildings department and NBC reported Amtrak planned to install overhead protection above the tracks to keep operations running normally. It was not clear Tuesday if Amtrak undertook that work.

By Sunday, more cracks and deterioration were found in the garage and the Empire Line service was suspended for fear the damage put trains at risk, the station reported.

McCant recommended commuters get to the station early, since multiride passes used for regular trips are often locked in for certain stations.

“The good thing is the majority of folks that are traveling have hybrid schedules,” she said. “So we have a little bit of flexibility.”

Amtrak said customers with reservations on trains that are being modified will be accommodated on trains with similar departure times or on another day. Amtrak will waive additional charges for customers looking to change their reservation during the modified schedule by calling the reservation center at 1-800-USA-RAIL.

This article originally appeared on Times Union.

Photo: Will Waldron/Times Union

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