NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Persistent problems with the Hackensack River Portal Bridge has been frustrating NJ TRANSIT passengers this week.
The bridge near Newark has been getting stuck as it opens to allow ships to pass through, causing long delays in and out of the city for commuters. It’s old and unreliable, and on Thursday afternoon it had NJ TRANSIT riders and some engineers holding their collective breath.
On Tuesday, the story was much different. A double-dose of malfunctions left the bridge open for extend periods of time, twice stranding riders. It’s caused commuters and lawmakers to demand accountability, and answers.
“I’m frustrated with them,” Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said. He says he keeps fighting to float an emergency fix to get around maritime laws which prioritize boats, and force the bridge to open for them.
If leaders of Amtrak, which owns the bridge, deny access to the boats they’d get slapped with fines. But Menendez says things have gotten so bad, people keep asking why the boats can’t wait until after the evening rush?
Menendez says he’s taken the issue to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“If Secretary Chao wants to help us make it a reality we can,” Menendez said. “Let’s see how they respond. So far, crickets.”
The senator said because it’s a multi-state problem, he wants all his colleagues to put pressure on the feds. Chao will also be hearing form Democratic New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Nobody from the secretary’s office got back to CBS2 on the issue, despite numerous calls and emails. If she does change when and how the bridge opens, it could be just like 2004 when a three-month experiment restricting the bridge caused delays to drop from 30 incidents to just one.
This week’s troubles aren’t the first time the bridge has had problems. In 1996, an eastbound Amtrak train derailed and sideswiped another Amtrak train heading westbound.