Review of NJ Transit Sandy Performance Unfinished
The anniversary of Superstorm Sandy has come and gone, and an independent review of how New Jersey’s transportation agency responded to the storm has yet to be released, despite officials’ assurances that it would be completed months ago.
New Jersey Transit’s rolling stock and infrastructure suffered more than $400 million in damage from the Oct. 29, 2012, storm, including more than $100 million to rail cars and locomotives that were left in rail yards in Hoboken and Kearny. The agency has been heavily criticized for not clearing the yards before the storm.
At a board meeting in December, NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein said the agency’s response to the storm would be the subject of a review by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, a specialist in emergency response training and preparedness. TEEX is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to NJ Transit.
Weinstein said TEEX “will do an objective, professional and constructive critique of how NJ Transit reacted to Hurricane Sandy and what can be done better,” according to minutes from the December 2012 board meeting. After the meeting, agency officials said the review would be completed in the spring.
NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said Wednesday that the report is being finalized and should be completed in the next few weeks. Snyder didn’t say why it has taken several months longer than officials initially said. A spokesman for TEEX didn’t respond to a similar question this week.
Another prominent regional agency recently submitted to a review by an outside entity that took far less time. In response to a controversy over toll hikes in late 2011, the governors of New York and New Jersey ordered an audit of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s management structure, finances and capital planning.
An auditor was approved that November, and by January, it had released a 55-page report — the first of two — that was highly critical of the agency.
In the year since Sandy, Weinstein has defended the decision to store the rail cars and locomotives at the Hoboken and Kearny yards, telling a state Assembly transportation committee that models showed an 80 to 90 percent chance that the yards wouldn’t be flooded.
NJ Transit has applied for more than $1 billion in grants from the federal government for flood prevention and mitigation projects, which include raising electrical substations as well as safeguarding its rolling stock and rail yards by building, buying or leasing other locations for use as emergency storage and inspection facilities.
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