NEWARK — NJ Transit riders had their second miserable afternoon commute in a row on Tuesday when the century old Portal Bridge became stuck in the open position.

The problem caused passengers to be stuck on trains already approaching the bridge over the Hackensack River to come to a halt while Amtrak worked on a solution to the issue just before 4 p.m. Delays on trains in-and-out of Penn Station New York quickly ballooned from 30 minutes to 90 minutes.

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams told that the bridge opened to allow marine traffic to pass at 3:24 p.m. but took over an hour to fully close to allow trains to safely pass. The bridge did not lock back into position at 4:52 p.m., according to Abrams.

That was enough time for passengers to stew along the Northeast Corridor at the delays.

Commuter Alexandria Pisauro on her Twitter account called the trip "hands down the scariest, most inept, and truly horrendous one ever."

"I have never seen such lack of leadership, sheer panic or abuse of power in Newark Penn as I did tonight. Cops were barricading passengers from catching their trains, screaming at us that the departure board was wrong -- it wasn't -- and physically blocking off our commutes home," she wrote.

Rider "Josey" echoed the sentiment on his Twitter feed and called it the "worst commute of my life."

Monday's commute on the Morris & Essex Line caused delays when a train carrying 1,500 riders lost power on the bridge approaching Newark's Broad Street.

An unidentified woman took out her frustration on a conductor named Marissa who drew praise from NJ Transit for her professionalism at keeping her cool. In the rant caught on video, the woman demanded to be let off the train, something which Stephen Burkett, general chairman of SMART Transportation Division Local 60, said was impossible.

"There is no where to go once you're stuck on that bridge. You can't get off the equipment at that point. There's no side rails. If you walk you're stepping off 50 feet until you drop into the water," Burkett told New Jersey 101.5.

Burkett praised the veteran conductor and said she represents a "whole load of people like that" who are also worthy of praise for their keeping calm under pressure.

A rescue train was sent to bring the passengers to Newark Penn Station.

Gov. Phil Murphy addressed the Morris & Essex Line problem at an event on Tuesday and said he is as frustrated at the situation as much as riders, according to

He said his administration is "making a lot of progress" at making improvements to NJ Transit.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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