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Another slowdown for NJ Transit commuters on Wednesday

(L-R) Rep. Donald Payne, Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Cory Booker at a press conference at Newark Penn Station
(L-R) Rep. Donald Payne, Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Cory Booker at a press conference at Newark Penn Station (NJTV News via YouTube)

NEWARK — The end of the Wednesday morning commute was bogged down by a disabled and empty NJ Transit train.

It was the latest commuter-rail snafu and it happened hours before U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie appeared together to press for assurances from the Trump Administration that funding for a third Hudson River rail tunnel will be part of the federal budget.

“We are long past a state of crisis and New Jersey residents are feeling it just about every day,” Booker said, pointing out Wednesday morning’s 30-minute delays in and out of New York Penn Station on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey and MidTown Direct.

“This is a point of unacceptability not just for New Jersey but the United States of America. Our most economically productive region in the country if not in the globe with the busiest river crossing in North America has a century old, inadequate infrastructure which is  causing havoc in this region.” Booker said

NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith in an email said there were no customers on the disabled train, which was on its way to the Sunnyside yard. The train has been cleared, according to Smith.

Regular service was restored around 10 a.m.

Booker and Christie, along with U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and state Sen. Teresa Ruiz invited Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to visit the Northeast Corridor.

“It would be beneficial for Secretary Chao to see first-hand the passenger volume at peak hours and to discuss what the consequences of failing to move forward on the Gateway Project would be,” Christie said.

Christie said said Gateway Project is 50-50 partnership agreed upon under the Obama administration.

Ruiz pointed out that if another Superstorm Sandy-level storm were to hit New Jersey and caused more damage to the existing tunnel, the number of hourly trains would go from 24 to six and cause a “commuter catastrophe.”

The disabled train is the latest in a series of mishaps by NJ Transit and Amtrak, which maintains and runs the Northeast Corridor tracks and stations.

Among the major incidents since last year:

  •  Friday: 1,200 passengers were stuck on a disabled NJ Transit train stranding thousands at Penn Station New York. The situation was thrown further into chaos when Amtrak police used a Taser to subdue a suspect, creating a stampede out of the station.
  •  Monday, April 3: The derailment of an NJ Transit train at New York Penn Station  led to reduced  “holiday service” with overcrowded trains for most of the week.
  • Friday, March 23: An NJ Transit train derailed at the platform when it was side-swiped by an Amtrak Acela train. Eleven tracks were taken out of service
  • Wednesday, March 15: A day after shutting down the Northeast Corridor in anticipation of a major snow storm, NJ Transit brought back limited service as all tracks and equipment were inspected in accordance with federal regulations.
  • Thursday, Sept. 29: A train entering Hoboken Terminal at 20 to 30 mph faster than the posted speed limit slammed into the abutment on Track 5 and crashed through the wall into a reception, killing a woman and injuring 100.

Lawmaker says NJ Transit needs more money — and here’s how it could get it

After touring the crash site at Hoboken Terminal on Monday, state Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Bergen, the chairman of the Senate Oversight Committee, said a dedicated long-term funding source funding needs to be established to support NJ Transit.

“You look at all the mass transit systems around the country, they can plan long-term because they know how much money they’re going to have five years down the road,” he said.

Gov. Chris Christie continues to lay blame for NJ Transit’s problems at the feet of Amtrak and ordered NJ Transit to withhold payments from Amtrak, a federally created corporation.

“Amtrak must sit down with NJ Transit and the other users of Penn Station and work out contingency plans that actually get people out of disabled trains as quickly as possible,” Christie said earlier this month.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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