Nearly 1/3 Of NJT's Locomotives And 1/4 Of Passenger Cars Were Damaged

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Questions persist as to why NJ TRANSIT parked some of its fleet of trains in low-lying flood-prone areas in advance of Superstorm Sandy’s landfall.

Senator Frank Lautenberg has announced he plans to hold a hearing at some point to look into why the train fleet suffered tens of millions of dollars worth of damage during the storm.

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WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports

Janna Chernetz, the New Jersey advocate for the regional watchdog group Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said the state and NJ TRANSIT officials should use what happened after Sandy as a learning experience.

“The devastation created by Sandy delivers a clear message that sustainable transportation investment and policies are needed to weather the next storm here in New Jersey,” she told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.

Chernetz said the storm showed that the state needs to spend transportation dollars on fixing the rail system’s old infrastructure.

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The state should also build the second rail tunnel to New York that Gov. Chris Christie derailed, Chernetz told Putney.

“We need to re-prioritize and refocus on maintenance,” Chernetz said. “In addition, when we’re looking at buses, too, a New Jersey-bound exclusive bus lane in the Lincoln Tunnel during evening rush hours modeled after the successful morning peak exclusive bus lane into New York City is one way to improve service.”

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Meantime, NJ TRANSIT’s top brass defended the transit agency’s decision to store locomotives where they did, noting most of the storage facilities are near water.

“We stored it where it should be,” NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Jim Weinstein said during an interview Tuesday with The Star-Ledger. “Unfortunately, it’s the worst storm we’ve ever had in New Jersey.”

Nearly a third of NJ TRANSIT’s locomotives and a quarter of its rail passenger cars suffered storm damage.

In total, 62 locomotives, and 261 rail cars, stored in the Meadows complex in Kearny and in Hoboken during Sandy were water-damaged and put out of commission, according to NJ TRANSIT, which added rail service system-wide was running at just over 90 percent capacity as of Monday.

Hoboken housed 37 rail cars and 12 engines as Sandy hit, according to the transit agency.

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.

A recent published report also said NJ TRANSIT has launched an internal probe into its preparations for Sandy, although NJ TRANSIT has denied the voracity of the report.

The full extent of the damage has not yet been calculated by the agency.

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