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Cuomo: Penn Station Is 'Impending Disaster,' Needs Federal Help Quickly

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Commuters want action to end their nightmare commute at Penn Station, and on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave more information about the letter he sent to Washington over the weekend.

"Penn station is a dead end station," one man said at a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meeting.

The man, a member of the public speaking at comment time, said Penn Station could be used as a pass-through for rail lines – but isn't.

Web Extra: Read Governor Cuomo's Full Letter To President Trump

"Long Island Rail Road goes there, it stops. New Jersey TRANSIT goes there, it stops," he said.

The man suggested the trains continue on to other yards to alleviate delays. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has another idea – get the federal government to step in.

"We're six weeks away from this," Cuomo said on "Capitol Press Room" on public radio Monday. "Please, we need federal cooperation and assistance. It is an impending disaster."

Cuomo explained the letter he sent Sunday to President Donald Trump asking for federal help for repairs at Penn Station.

"Looking at solutions such as buses coming in from Long Island with a different design on the high-occupancy vehicle lanes and making them bus lanes, because people need to get in from Long Island, and congestion is already horrendous," he said.

Cuomo is also asking for funding. Amtrak is federally controlled and maintains Penn Station.

"We don't have any semblance of control over Amtrak, and it'll almost be a grin-and-bear-it situation," he said.

Amtrak is planning six weeks of repair work. Cuomo said he thinks the work will take longer, and that service will be cut by about 20 percent during that time – overstressing the subways, bridges, and tunnels.

Other lawmakers agree.

"For Amtrak to try to jam 20 years of infrastructure repairs into two months this summer, it just shows that they haven't really taken the commuters seriously and haven't treated them with respect they deserve," said state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Centre).

The LIRR, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and NJ TRANSIT pay rent for the use of Penn Station totaling about $150 million. That is in addition to millions more from the MTA for improvements.

Some New York lawmakers now want to withhold that money. Legislation in the state Senate would hold the LIRR and MTA's regular payments for Penn for the rest of 2017, until 95 percent of the trains are on time.

Amtrak said withholding funds is not the answer to Penn Station's problems.

The MTA said detailed repair work plans could be released by June 1.

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