How bad are delays caused by North River Tunnel and Portal Bridge? 2,000 lost hours bad.

July 23, 2019
An analysis by Northeast Corridor Commission staff found 85 days had five hours or more of delays caused by failures of the two pieces of 108-year-old infrastructure.

Commuters who travel through the North River Tunnel or Portal Bridge experienced nearly 2,000 lost hours in extra transit time between 2014 and 2018 according to an analysis performed by Northeast Corridor (NEC) Commission staff. That’s more than 83 days and about the same time it takes to build a Boeing 777.

New Jersey Transit and Amtrak supplied five years’ worth of data that provided the foundation of the analysis. NEC Commission staff released its report during a meeting of the Gateway Program Development Corporation (GDC) Board of Trustees. The analysis found 85 days where failures in the 108-year-old tunnel and on the equally as old bridge caused more than five hours of delays for NJ Transit and Amtrak passengers.

“Regular delays are unacceptable for any amount of time, but these 85 major delay days are particularly bad, adding up to more than one day a month of major delays,” said GDC Board Chair and New Jersey Trustee Jerry Zaro. “Commuters are rightly frustrated at being forced to arrive very late to work and parents dismayed over lost time otherwise spent with family and children. It’s past time to build Gateway and give passengers the reliability they pay for and deserve.”

The Gateway Program has been dubbed the most urgent infrastructure program in America because it would rebuild and replace critical pieces of infrastructure on the busiest passenger rail line in the U.S.

“The North River Tunnel and the Portal Bridge might only represent a few miles of track, but they link 20 percent of the nation’s economy and carry 200,000 people per day. Incidents that start here ripple up and down the entire Northeast Corridor, particularly when they are causing five-hour delays and more. That’s why we’re working so hard to get Gateway funded and built,” said GDC Board Vice Chair and Amtrak Trustee Anthony R. Coscia.

“These major delay days caused by century-old infrastructure are too frequent, and riders have been forced to become too used to them,” said New York GDC Trustee Steven M. Cohen. “Building Gateway is the most effective way to make sure that these unacceptable delays stop.”

Amtrak and NJ Transit requested the analysis of the NEC Commission on behalf of the Gateway Program Development Corporation. The analysis involved examination of 3 million train movements and some 750,000 daily delay records compiled from Amtrak, NJ Transit and other Northeast Corridor operators. The findings focus on the 1.5 million train movements in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area with additional analysis needed to quantify the ripple effect of these delays on services outside the local area.

The analysis was released on the same day that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation into law that would establish the Gateway Development Commission, a bi-state entity that would oversee planning, funding and construction of new rail tunnels and other projects in the Gateway Program.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.