News

Report: NJ Transit To Launch Probe Into Poor Storm Preparations

(credit: NJ TRANSIT)

(credit: NJ TRANSIT)

Superstorm Sandy

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — NJ TRANSIT has launched an internal probe into its preparations for Superstorm Sandy, according to a published report.

Among the most crucial issues to be probed is the decision to store trains in areas that ended up getting inundated by storm surge, according to the New York Post.

Almost a third of the NJ TRANSIT fleet was damaged in the storm on Oct. 29, and some say the potentially multimillion-dollar loss could have been prevented, the Post reported.

In all, 261 of NJ Transit’s passenger railcars and 63 of its locomotives sustained damage and are in line for repairs, spokesman John Durso Jr. told The Record of Woodland Park. An estimate of the cost to repair the damage is not yet available, Durso said.

The agency has 203 locomotives and 1,162 cars.

Still, he insisted there will be no impact on rail service in the short term. Late Friday, the agency announced all but one of its rail lines will be up and running on Monday. However, much of the system will still run a modified schedule, including the Bergen, Main and Pascack Valley lines.

The Northeast Corridor, the line with the most traffic, is expected to run a regular schedule.

Limited service was restored earlier this week to the Montclair-Boonton Line into Penn Station in New York City and to Hoboken.

Midtown Direct service also resumed on the Morristown Line with trains operating between Dover and Summit into New York. The agency says trains will also resume on the North Jersey Coast line between Bay Head and New York City and Hoboken on Monday.

Full information can be found at njtransit.com.

Durso declined to explain the long-term impact that fewer railcars and fewer engines will have on NJ TRANSIT customers who have been left to navigate a constantly changing, patchwork system that includes emergency buses and ferries while the agency tries to address systemwide damage resulting from Sandy. The agency did not anticipate the severity of the flooding that enveloped its Hoboken yard, Durso said. There were 37 railcars and 12 engines left in Hoboken.

“The extent of flooding in Hoboken exceeded any prior experience,” Durso said. “The engines and railcars there were located in the highest point in the yard — in a location that had never sustained flooding previously, including in storms such as Irene or Floyd.”

The 49 pieces of now-damaged equipment were left in Hoboken even as NJ TRANSIT, in a news release issued the Sunday before Sandy struck New Jersey, announced it was shutting down its bus, rail and light rail systems and moving equipment out of low-lying areas.

“The suspension of NJ TRANSIT service will require a minimum of 12 hours to complete,” the release said. “The process requires the relocation and securing of buses, rail equipment and other NJ Transit assets away from flood-prone areas.”

The release also pointed out that during Hurricane Irene, NJ Transit saved billions in assets by securing its system.

Durso said cost estimates for the damage are still being gathered and that all of the damaged equipment will be repaired. “None will be lost,” he said. He gave no answer when asked how long it will take to finish repairs.

The other coaches and locomotives in the fleet that were damaged were at NJ Transit’s Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny, which was fully surrounded by floodwaters during the height of the storm.

Durso said the full extent of the damage is still not known, but so far includes:

• Water damage to vehicle interiors, such as soaked insulation panels and seat cushions.

• Saltwater intrusion into onboard electrical systems.

• Damage to undercarriage equipment, such as heating and air conditioning units and batteries.

He said some vehicle repairs may require the removal of seats, wall panels and floors to get to the damaged components.

NJ Transit stores train cars and locomotives at rail yards in Waldwick, Great Notch, Hoboken, Dover, Suffern, Port Morris, Bay Head, Kearny, Morrisville, and Raritan.

In preparation for Sandy, Durso said the equipment in vulnerable areas was housed or transferred to areas around the state, including the Waldwick Yard, Raritan Yard and locations in Woodbridge, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Hammonton and Hoboken, as well as other locations in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

The agency is now scrambling to repair the equipment by reaching out to sister agencies like Amtrak and repair shops.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)