NJ Transit: Sorry for Monday’s massive delays, now get us new Hudson tunnel
NEWARK — NJ Transit has issued an apology for the problems caused by Monday night’s power problems.
In the video apology, the agency's consumer advocate, Stuart Mader, also made a pitch for the Gateway Tunnel project, which had been kiboshed by the Christie administration because of funding concerns.
Commuters on Monday were stuck at New York Penn Station because of a problem with Amtrak's overhead catenary wires in the south tube of the Hudson River tunnels. A train became disabled about 5 p.m. NJ Transit and Amtrak trains could only use the north tube, creating delays of at least two hours.
"We know you had a trip last night that was significantly longer than normal. We're sorry for the severity of the disruption," Mader says in the video.
He said that NJ Transit utilized its app, social media platforms, website, Departure Vision and in-station announcements to provide updates.
The apology did not sit well with some of those who had been stuck in the delay.
"The alerts and tweets were completely lacking accuracy and weren't giving riders the right info. Lame," one Twitter use responded.
"I was stuck on a train for FOUR hours and missed a tribute concert for a musician friend of mine who was killed last year," another user tweeted. "I took of of work only to sit on your train for 4 whole hours if not more. What happened last night is beyond ridiculous."
"If NJ Transit wasn’t terrible all the time already and generally unapologetic and silent when there are ongoing delays and service disruptions, riders would be more inclined to cut them some slack for Monday night. As it is, the well has been poisoned for a very long time," a Twitter user with the name @RebeccaLW told New Jersey 101.5 on Tuesday. She said Monday's commute was the worst of her 18 years as an NJ Transit commuter.
Amtrak also released more details about what led to the outages. Officials said an electrical contact failed about 4:30 p.m. at the entrance of the tunnel where the catenary wires intersect with the tunnel’s flood gates.
Power was briefly restored at 4:48 p.m. and a rescue train was sent to push a disabled NJ Transit train back to New York Penn Station, according to Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams. It also meant single tracking was in effect until the overhead wires could be inspected and repaired, according to Abrams.
Power was restored at 6:10 p.m. but lost again at 6:22 p.m., according to Abrams.
"Due to all of the train traffic coming in and out of the station during the evening rush, the track was not fully cleared for repairs until 10:21 p.m. Our crews were then able to identify and replace the faulty components. Power was restored with typical operations resuming at around 12:40 a.m.," Abrams said.
The ultimate blame, according to both NJ Transit and Amtrak, are the continued delays in the Gateway Tunnel project.
"Our region is dependent on two tunnels into and out of New York Penn Station, which is a lot like a superhighway narrowing down to a two-lane road. When one of those tunnels goes out of service there's a 75% reduction in the number of trains that can pass through," Mader said.
Abrams agreed and said that if a second tunnel were in place with two additional tracks, trains could maneuver around the problem.
The project, which would include the construction of a new Portal Bridge, lacks funding from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Transportation has given the tunnel and an associated rail bridge project in New Jersey low ratings because of insufficient local commitment of funds, which disqualifies them from the Capital Investment Grant program.
U.S. Sen. Robert Mendendez, D-N.J., mentioned the Gateway Project in his response to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday and Trump's call for spending $1.5 trillion over a decade to fund infrastructure projects.
“President Trump can say he wants to make strong investments in our aging infrastructure, even as he single-handedly stands in the way of completing the nation’s most critical transportation project—Gateway," Menendez said in a written statement.
On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said that Monday night's delays were "completely and utterly, 1,000% unacceptable.”
“I don’t know where there was more frustration, lack of communication or more confusion last night, the Iowa caucuses or New York Penn Station," Murphy said, referring to a delay in the release of caucus results by the Iowa Democratic Party.
The governor also said he believes the situation was Amtrak's fault because they maintain the Northeast Corridor but also found blame for NJ Transit.
"The lack of proactive, aggressive communication on behalf of NJ Transit is unacceptable. If folks are frustrated and angry, I don’t blame them and so am I," Murphy said.
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