Christie announces Amtrak and NJ Transit negotiations as delays continue

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

At a hastily arranged news conference, the Gov. Chris Christie said that after days of negotiations Amtrak last night made concessions to NJ Transit.

Once repair work on the tracks at Penn Station begins this summer, Amtrak will provide NJ Transit with daily repair updates, set up a new joint operations center at the station, and give NJ Transit access to the actual site of all repairs.

That didn’t help things this morning.

“Unfortunately, in less than 12 hours after that agreement as commuters were already boarding trains at 6 a.m., Amtrak notified NJ Transit it was closing the busy track 10 causing unannounced delays of up to two hours this morning,” Christie said.

Christie said the Morris and Essex line will be most affected this summer. Its midtown direct trains will end in Hoboken, where commuters will pick up the PATH train or a ferry.

To offset the inconvenience, Christie is lowering the fare for a monthly pass. From Gladstone, for example, a pass that now costs $451 a month will be discounted to $168.

“I’m not happy about any of this, but the fact of the matter is we’re either going to make these repairs now or we’re going to make them later,” said Christie.

Christie blames Amtrak for the three derailments and numerous delays that have plagued the system during the past eight months.

“NJ Transit did not cause this problem, Amtrak has caused this problem. Amtrak has admitted they caused the problem,” he said.

He said that’s why he and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York are pushing to privatize the management of Penn Station, which Amtrak currently manages.

“I still agree with Gov. Cuomo that the long-term solution for this as we jointly recommended last week is to get a private operator in to make sure that a private operator runs Penn Station and that infrastructure given Amtrak’s duplicity, their dishonesty,” Christie said.

Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman has been the contact for NJ Transit this spring, but Anthony Coscia is chairman of the board.

Coscia has a long track record in New Jersey public life, including as chairman of the Port Authority.

We asked Christie if he had spoken to Coscia during this crisis. He said no.

“He has not communicated with me directly, Michael, what can I tell you? Call Mr. Coscia and ask him why he hasn’t picked up the phone. His agency is regularly screwing the state and he hasn’t picked up the phone and called me,” Christie said.

We reached out to Coscia who declined to comment.

Christie says other than the Morris and Essex line, other NJ Transit rail lines should not be too disrupted by the summer repair work, that includes the Northeast Corridor line.

The work is scheduled to begin in early July and end around Labor Day.

Christie thanked Amtrak for bringing another company, HNTB, into the project to help expedite it.

It’s not a dramatic announcement, but an agreement between Amtrak and NJ Transit represents significant action on a glaring problem.