Normal service could resume to New York Penn Station on Friday
NEW YORK — Amtrak hopes to restore regular service to Penn Station New York by Friday as an angry NJ Transit executive director demands quick action on making repairs.
Spokesman Mike Tolbert said crews are "making good progress" to repair damage from Monday morning's derailment of an NJ Transit train, which included multiple switches, signals and the mechanisms that control them, several rails, a rail crossing point, signal wires and other components.
NJ Transit has been operating its Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line on a holiday schedule since the derailment of a 10-car train carrying 1,200 passengers and crew. NJ Transit said it would operate that way again on Thursday.
An angry NJ Transit executive director Steven Santoro said its riders are "beyond frustrated with the havoc wreaked upon their lives" in the aftermath of the derailment and demanded that Amtrak, which is responsible for the operation and maintenance of New York Penn Station and its tracks, take "all corrective actions to resolve the continuing problems at the station for the sake of all of our customers and the region's transit system."
He said NJ Transit recently signed an agreement with Amtrak to contribute an additional $74 million to go towards "a state of good repair" for the Northeast Corridor.
Santoro demanded that Amtrak form a team that would include rail experts from NJ Transit, Amtrak and the LILRR "to walk every inch of track at Penn Station New York and perform an exhaustive inspection and analysis of all tracks and signals in and around the station to insure the integrity of the infrastructure in New York and along the Northeast Corridor." The executive director, said NJ Transit needs more of a voice in the operation of the terminal and will meet with the Federal Railroad Administration on Thursday.
While the investigation into the derailment is ongoing, Santoro said the agency has checked the history of the rail cars involved and said "we found that all of the 180 day inspections that were required to be performed were performed and we feel those rail cars were in good shape."
Tolbert said the damage near track 9 is in an area he called "one of the most complex interlockings on the Northeast Corridor, a location where two tunnel tracks diverge towards the 21 station tracks."
He said the work goes on "with safety as the first priority as crews operate heavy machinery with energized power lines overhead and trains moving by at reduced speeds on adjacent tracks."
Gov. Chris Christie called the current reduction in service "unacceptable" and ordered NJ Transit executives to personally appear at stations system to discuss the derailment with passengers. Christie said he is "fully aware" of commuter frustrations and urged officials from Amtrak to work with NJ Transit at resolving the situation.
Two New Jersey legislators, meanwhile, addressed the derailment at an Assembly budget hearing on Wednesday and urged additional state funding for NJ Transit.
“Without an adequate, stable source of state funding, NJ Transit cannot deliver the high-quality service its passengers deserve,” Assemblyman Jack McKeon said. The Democrat representing Morris and Essex counties said that funding in the current proposed budget is "less than half of the amount allocated for the state’s transportation system prior to the start of the Christie administration."
Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio, D-Mercer, blamed Gov. Chris Christie's decision years ago to end the ARC tunnel project.
“If the governor had not axed the ARC tunnel project, which was scheduled to open in 2018, this would not be an issue. Now the Gateway Tunnel project is under threat. President Trump’s proposed federal budget has no funding for infrastructure projects, which would seriously hamper the project. We cannot afford to lose another tunnel project," Muoio said.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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