“The bus system functioned well and in some very real ways carried the New Jersey transit system on its back for a good period of time,” Weinstein said.
All three light rail lines in New Jersey were damaged due to flooding and flooding at the North Penn Station, which Weinstein said basically put the north city subway and light rail out of commission in that area for five to seven days. The least damaged line was the River Line between Trenton and Camden, which Weinstein said was up and running very quickly. That same line had been the most severely damaged during Hurricane Irene in 2011.
And the Hudson-Bergen light rail line running along the Hudson River from Bayonne, Hoboken and Weehawken, which serves the entire gulf coast of New Jersey and had seen a resurgence in recent years, suffered damage causing issues as well.
Weinstein said the greatest damage was inflicted on the system’s 12 rail lines with the last of the Gladstone Branch of the Morris and Essex lines not getting operational until Dec. 3. Although the area wasn’t flooded during the hurricane, Weinstein said there were a number of catenary poles snapped and downed trees from high winds.
“We do 325,000 to 330,000 round trips per day and a lot of people were inconvenienced by this,” Weinstein said. “(I) went up there to thank customers for their patience and they were as happy as we all are that the train service is back.”
By December, roughly 92 percent of all service in the New Jersey system was up and running, along with 100 percent of Access Link paratransit service. But storm surges damaged substations and the Meadowlands maintenance facility, which caused issues with performing maintenance on rail cars. The rail operations center is part of the Meadowlands facility and has been running on generator power after the hurricane, so there also isn’t enough power at the facility to perform maintenance with new equipment.
“The thing that happened in the storm that probably caused the most devastation was the water damage to the electrical system and when that water is salt water it’s even worse,” Weinstein said. “I’m told what happens is that even after they clean it out, the corrosive qualities of the salt remain and eats away at the electrical systems.
“You have to sort of replace the whole thing because if you don’t it’s going to be a living nightmare.”
Although a much smaller system than MTA or NJ Transit, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson connecting New Jersey and New York City suffered some of the most extensive damage from Sandy. Steven Kingsberry, acting director of PATH, said more than 10 million gallons of water had to be pumped out of the mostly underground rail line after the storm while staff had to live and work out of the system’s main office for eight straight days after the storm and coordinate the effort without power.
The saltwater inside the PATH tunnels caused more havoc on the PATH system because of the corrosive effect it has on the transit equipment, so Kingsberry said crews are continuing to check any and all equipment for damage with the help of federal agencies and vendors. Damage to PATH is estimated at $300 million, which Kingesberry said the agency is working with FEMA to get reimbursed for the costs.
“We got the first phase of several up by Journal Square to 33rd Street and that was really a herculean effort because much of that part of the system was the most damaged by the storm,” Kingsberry said. “Working from there, we went out to our Newark location, which is one of the major hubs of PATH riders and we brought that on board by [Nov.] 12 and we’re very happy with that accomplishment.
“We opened up the World Trade Center on [Nov.] 26 and again that’s where we pumped out over 10 million gallons of water from the World Trade Center tunnel.”
Help from each other
Transit systems in the region that didn’t suffer the catastrophic effects of the storm were quick to lend a hand in the recovery. In early November, the Delaware Transit Corp. announced it would send 20 buses for NJ Transit to use as substitutes for inoperable rail lines and 20 DART employees drove the buses to a garage in North Bergan.