NJ Transit worries Amtrak repairs will significantly disrupt commuters
NJ Transit says it will consider the impact on commuters as it reviews Amtrak’s plan to speed repairs at New York Penn Station in ways certain to disrupt rail service this summer.
Amtrak says major projects will begin in May and continue through the fall. Further work mostly done on weekends will continue through next June.
NJ Transit executive director Stephen Santoro said safety is obviously the priority but that his agency will also talk with Amtrak about limiting the impact of track closures and schedule changes.
“A significant disruption to our customers, even for a short two months, is something that I am concerned about,” Santoro said.
“If they’re talking about cancellations and delays, we need to analyze that very quickly in terms of the impact of our customers,” he said.
Santoro said he worries about the impact on New Jersey’s economy, particularly in North Jersey. Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, the mayor of commuter-heavy Wood-Ridge, said it shouldn’t cost jobs – but will cause aggravation for train riders.
“It’s going to make their life a lot more difficult, a lot more stress, a lot more anxiety,” Sarlo said. “And shame on, shame on, shame on New York, shame on Amtrak, shame on NJ Transit and others who allowed this to happen.”
Santoro said NJ Transit hadn’t yet received Amtrak’s repair plan Thursday, when he testified about the agency’s budget before a Senate committee. He’s due back in Trenton Friday to address lawmakers at a joint Senate and Assembly hearing, along with top Amtrak executives.
“I’m also a little concerned about potential revenue hits, if we’re cutting service to do these improvements – which clearly need to be done, there’s no question about that,” Santoro said.
Senators said repeated delays and occasional derailments are compelling NJ Transit users to commute instead by car.
“It cannot continue this way. It’s impacting a lot of people in the area. A lot more are going into their cars, rather than using mass transit. It’s causing congestion on our roads, and it’s not tolerable,” said Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris.
“Employers are only so long are going to be like, ‘Oh, the dog ate the homework? You’re late again?’” said state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, who said commuters won't accept hour-long delays. “There just is going to be a point at which they can’t do it. They just won’t do it. They’ll all just start driving again.”