Making Space: Street Level Work to Raise Ceilings at Penn Station

Construction workers demolishing the western utility box.

Why does widening the corridors and raising the ceilings of Penn Station’s subterranean LIRR Concourse require construction at street level? The LIRR Concourse Project is replacing two aging utility boxes under 33rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues to reconfigure utilities and optimize use of the space.

Construction workers removing abandoned water and gas pipes from the eastern utility box.

New York City has a vast unseen infrastructure beneath its sidewalks and streets. Legacy networks of electrical lines, water mains, and sewer pipes add complexities to transportation improvement projects. Below 33rd Street and 8th Avenue, an existing utility box (known as the “western utility box”) stretched 13 feet beneath the surface yet contained only two pipes. The “eastern utility box”, beneath 33rd Street and 7th Avenue, contained abandoned water and gas lines. Together, these two structures consumed nearly 100,000 cubic feet of valuable space.

View of the western utility box from the LIRR Concourse level.

The inefficiencies of this existing infrastructure presented an obstruction as the LIRR Concourse Project began planning to expand the corridor width to 57 feet and raise the ceiling height to 18 feet. But through extensive coordination with City and private partners, the Project is right-sizing the utility boxes to reclaim space for passengers where it previously wasn’t available. This innovative work will simultaneously provide modernized utility infrastructure for the neighborhood and a bigger and brighter Penn Station.

Illustrative rendering of the new Concourse.