Modernizing New York Penn Station

New York City, New York, United States

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Delivering more than a transit station

Penn Station’s transformative modernization reaffirms its role as not just a destination but a civic asset

Moving through New York City’s Pennsylvania Station is now a smoother, safer and more efficient experience with the opening of the East End Gateway and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Concourse project. A major part of the re-envisioning and modernization of the New York Penn Station complex, the new gateway entrance and 33rd Street concourse renovation delivers an impressive transformation those who travel through the train hall and concourse each day. Already the busiest transit hub in the Western Hemisphere with approximately 600,000 visitors daily (pre-pandemic), Penn Station is currently home to LIRR, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak and six New York City subway lines, with future plans to add Metro North Railroad service.

Phase I: creating an iconic front door

Penn Station’s new entrance, the East End Gateway, solves the challenge of providing a direct connection at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue to the underground station, which is positioned below Madison Square Garden and spans 31st to 33rd streets between Seventh and Eighth avenues. The new entrance adds significant access and egress capacity along Seventh Avenue to the existing station entrances at 31st, 32nd and 34th streets. For this project, AECOM served as designer-of-record. We worked with design-build partner Skanska USA to provide design, engineering, vertical transportation and project management services and worked closely with lead architect Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) which provided architectural and structural design services.

The new gateway, opened in December 2020, establishes an easily identifiable eastern entrance that was lacking for decades, giving Penn Station an arrival point worthy of its significant transportation role within the region. Designed to carry the skylit grandeur and visual aesthetic of the Moynihan Train Hall eastward, the entrance is heralded by a monumental glass and exposed steel canopy. Supported by structural steel spandrels, the canopy rises in a gentle curve 40 feet above street level and brings natural light into the underground concourses for the first time since the original station was demolished in the 1960s.

Impressive yet practical, the new gateway also adds significant capacity to move passengers to and from street level. The design team used pedestrian modeling to evaluate the optimal placement for the three escalators and one staircase within the concourse, nearly doubling the existing entrance and exit capacity in the predominant direction of travel and improving safety within the station with a new egress. At street level, the entrance was set back 130 feet from the 7th Avenue curb, providing a generous sidewalk space for people to move around the busy station area while offering direct sightlines to the city’s signature landmark, the Empire State Building.

Phase II: expanding the concourse

While improving access and visibility to Penn Station was the primary goal for the first phase, it was equally important to enhance the passenger experience within the station — so the $414 million second phase entirely reimagined the LIRR Concourse by expanding the concourse’s width and height while providing a wide array of additional upgrades. As designer-of-record, the AECOM team again worked with design-build partner Skanska USA to provide design, engineering, vertical transportation and project management services, with lead architectural design services from SOM. Phase II improvements were completed in March 2023.

Perhaps the first thing passengers notice when descending the escalators from the East End Gateway into the station is that the LIRR entrance hall is bright and wide open. Modern lighting from 360 color-changing LED ceiling panels creates a luminous glow, complementing the daylight. To establish more room for passengers to move through the station, we shifted the retail outlet spaces and storefronts north, changes that allowed us to nearly double the concourse’s width from 30 to 57 feet. We also reconfigured back-of-house spaces to support railroad operations and the MTA Police Department within the train station and One Penn Plaza — vital improvements for a functioning transportation facility.

Increasing the ceiling height posed a particular challenge, as it required removing the low-hanging beams — known as “head knockers” because they dropped as low as six-and-a-half feet above the floor — that spanned the concourse to provide support for The Garden, 33rd Street and other structures above the station. After conducting detailed structural analyses and constructability reviews, we devised a clever structural framing system that raised ceiling heights to an impressive 18 feet, while maintaining critical structural support and avoiding any significant work that would require track outages below. This solution also reconfigured the myriad of utilities under 33rd Street so they could fit between the raised roof structure and street above.

Accessibility was improved by adding a new street-level elevator that is nearly twice as large as standard transit elevators. Staircases and the fare control area were also widened, and stairs were reconstructed with added enclosures at two platforms. Four other elevators were replaced in the station to provide more reliable service. More intuitive wayfinding and information displays distributed throughout the concourse keep passengers flowing, and upgrades to HVAC, air supply, electrical, public address and fire alarm systems ensure comfort and safety for the traveling public.

By developing a phasing strategy that minimized impacts to operations, the entire station — including an important connection point from the LIRR concourse to the New York City subway lines — remained fully operational throughout construction.

Connecting to Moynihan Train Hall

Offering improved wayfinding and expanded pathways, the new gateway and renovated concourse establish a vital link to one of the most monumental civic projects undertaken in New York City in a generation, Moynihan Train Hall. Opened in 2020, this transportation facility restores the grandeur of rail travel that characterized the original Penn Station, constructed in 1910.

Skanska and SOM led the design and construction of the train hall, while AECOM provided architecture, electrical, communications and security engineering plus project management services for the LIRR ticketing and operations spaces.

Moynihan Train Hall reclaims the magnificence of the historic Penn Station through a new skylight that arches up from the massive, original steel trusses spanning the internal courtyard to enclose the boarding concourse. With the train hall’s opening, the dignified sense of arrival that was lost with the destruction of the original Penn Station is once again established.

The centerpiece of Manhattan’s West Side

The reimagined New York Penn Station complex is breathing new life not only into the station, but to the entire Far West Side, from Manhattan West to Hudson Yards. The new East End Gateway entrance and renovated LIRR Concourse refine and modernize Penn Station’s identity and functionality, building upon the transformation achieved with the restored Moynihan Train Hall. With its raised roof, monumental glass entrance, mosaic artwork and widened concourse, this is more than a revitalized transit hub — it is a destination in its own right.