SECAUCUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A bit of relief may be coming for hundreds of thousands of NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak riders.

It’s over 100 years old and notoriously unreliable.

New Jersey’s Portal Bridge, connecting Kearny and Secaucus, has caused huge headaches for commuters.

When it swings open to allow maritime traffic to pass on the Hackensack River, it’s known to get stuck, causing massive railroad delays.

Now, temporary rush hour restrictions on the river to help fix that may become permanent, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reports.

“I hope so. I mean, if they allow us to continue on without any interruption, I’m sure that would make a lot of people happy,” said NJ TRANSIT rider Abdo Kamel.

It’s an idea CBS2 first broached last October.

At the time, we asked every person responsible for the bridge and waterway, why can’t the boats wait until after the evening rush during this crisis?

We were told, “The law is written such that whoever was there first gets the right of way. The river was there before the railroad, and therefore the boats get priority over the railroad.”

Sen. Bob Menendez pledged to lobby the feds to make changes.

“Your stories visualized it, and sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words,” he said.

In March, he announced the temporary restrictions.

All marine traffic that required the bridge to swing open would be banned between 5-10 a.m. and 3-8 p.m. with limited exceptions.

Since then, he says there have been no rail service disruptions because of Portal Bridge failure.

Now, he says the Coast Guard is in the process of making the restrictions permanent.

“Anything that can make NJ TRANSIT run better I think is a good idea. Unfortunately, the trains right now, they have a lot of issues and I don’t think all of it is in NJ TRANSIT’s control,” one commuter said.

She and many others like Menendez say much more must be done.

They’re calling on the feds to greenlight the Gateway Project, which includes building a new Portal Bridge and a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

Menendez expects these rush-hour restrictions currently in place will be permanent by January after a public notice and public comment period.


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