NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — NJ TRANSIT and rail worker unions said they were closer Tuesday than they were a day earlier to reaching an agreement that would head off a strike this weekend.

Union official Stephen Burkert told reporters that talks had been progressing without heated words or derogatory statements.

Monday’s bargaining ended abruptly when NJ TRANSIT negotiators walked away. Negotiations resumed at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and ended for the day shortly before 4:30 p.m.

NJ TRANSIT unions have been working without a new contract since 2011 and union leaders are adamant about changes they’d like to see in order for a deal to be reached.

If a contract deal isn’t reached before March 13, transit workers are threatening to head to the picket lines.

NJ TRANSIT  outlined a contingency plan using expanded bus service and free park-and-ride lots. But officials said it will only accommodate about four in 10 displaced rail riders.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority will be beefing up personnel at all PATH stations in readiness for the possible walk-out and is warning customers to buy MetroCards in advance to avoid longer wait lines at machines, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.

“We do have plans for the west of Hudson commuters on Metro-North where they would be able to access buses,” Chairman Thomas Prendergast added.

Buses from the Palisades Center in West Nyack and from the Harriman stop with take commuters to the Tarrytown Metro-North station. Buses from Middletown will go to the Beacon Metro-North stop.

 

The Partnership for New York City, a business organization, estimates a rail shutdown would cost New York City employers $5.9 million per hour.

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