Legislative Hearing Set for Tenth Day of ‘Summer of Hell’ Repairs

An NJ Transit train. Alyana Alfaro for Obsever.

Many New Jersey commuters traveling into New York City were rerouted via Hoboken ferry on Monday, the first day of much-needed repairs to rail lines at New York Penn Station that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said would be a “summer of hell” for riders.

The repairs, which are expected to stretch over the summer months, are part of a plan by Amtrak — the owner and operator of New York Penn Station — to resolve an increasing number of derailments that have led to massive delays for travelers.

While reports indicate that the alternate route’s first day went smoothly, the legislative committee overseeing the progress on the repairs called a hearing for mid-July to assess how the repairs were affecting riders. That hearing is scheduled for July 19, 10 days into the repairs.

“The closure of multiple New York Penn Station tracks to NJ Transit trains will have a severe impact on the lives of tens of thousands of New Jersey commuters,” said state Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Bergen), the co-chair of the committee.

On Monday, Gordon took the 7:24 a.m. train from Fair Lawn’s Radburn station to assess the changes. On Twitter, Gordon said there was “heavier than normal passenger volume, but traffic flowed well,” and acknowledged the work of New Jersey Transit, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and New York Waterways for the transition.

“These track closures are a risk to our state’s economic well-being and a major inconvenience for the working people of New Jersey who rely on them each and every workday,” said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), the other co-chair of the oversight committee. “We need to know how this work is progressing and what type of adverse impact it’s having on our economy and the lives of our commuters and their families.”

The first day of repairs also sparked the interest of Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who, like Gordon, took a morning NJ Transit train to assess the repairs and parlay with riders. State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), tried to ease the first day of repairs for riders by handing out coffee and donuts at the Maplewood train station.

“I rode the train this morning to see first hand the effect summer repair work is having on commuters,” said Guadagno in a statement. “I believe commuters must be treated with respect, and as governor, I will take politics out of transportation and focus on improving efficiency, quality and customer service. Only then will we be able to create the transportation and transit system New Jersey deserves.”

Guadagno, the Republican candidate for governor, said that New Jersey’s next governor must be “proactive rather than reactive” regarding infrastructure projects and repairs. If elected, Guadagno said she plans to create a new funding formula for transpiration and eliminate a four-member panel that currently oversees transportation. She also wants to audit the state’s Transportation Trust Fund to find any alternative sources of funding and divert New York tax revenue collected from New Jersey residents to help fund projects in New Jersey.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy claimed on Monday that the “summer of hell” could have been avoided had Gov. Chris Christie not “defunded NJ Transit by 90%.”

Christie in 2010 cancelled a trans-Hudson tunnel known as the ARC tunnel. According to initial estimates, that tunnel would now be nearing completion, assuming there were no delays.

In their statement announcing the hearing, McKeon and Gordon called for immediate upped federal funding to New Jersey infrastructure projects including the proposed Gateway Rail Tunnel and Portal Bridge repairs. President Trump’s proposed budget could slash funding for transit projects.

“Whether it’s Gov. Christie stripping away the funding for a new tunnel or the missing-in-action Trump administration and Republican Congress, we are seeing a complete lack of leadership when it comes to advocating on behalf of our commuters and supporting our economy,” said McKeon.

The oversight committee will hear testimony from NJ Transit, Amtrak, PATH and New York Waterways.

Legislative Hearing Set for Tenth Day of ‘Summer of Hell’ Repairs