Rep. Jeff Van Drew wasted no time lashing out at NJ Transit on his first day in Congress. Van Drew had nothing nice to say about the agency after it totally shut down South Jersey’s main railroad, the Atlantic City line, to install positive train control.
“I’m mad as hell about that,” said Van Drew. “And I hate to use this language but I’m damn angry about this.”
The PTC gear, which can prevent accidents, injuries and even death on the rails has been installed along the 60 miles of track that connect Atlantic City to Philadelphia and on 282 of NJ Transit’s 440 locomotives and cab cars. With those numbers the agency met the federal milestones to qualify for the 2020 alternative schedule. It has submitted paperwork to the FRA for their year-end milestone deadline.
But the installation and shutdown have been going on for nearly 4 months, leaving commuters stranded and forced to find other means of transportation.
“We have minimal transportation as it is in South Jersey and in the Atlantic City area. Transportation is obviously important for job growth, it’s important for commercial growth, it is important for the way of life of the people who commute back and forth. We were given a commitment and a promise at the time from NJ Transit that in January they were going to get this done,” Van Drew said.
Last month NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder told NJTV that they expected trains to be up and running by early 2019. When NJTV News spoke with her on Friday there was still no date when trains would be up and running. She released a statement saying, “NJ TRANSIT’s Rail Service Planners are currently evaluating the schedule for restoring regular service to the Atlantic City Rail Line as soon as possible.”
“If they don’t get it done in January, or real close to January, I will tell you just from my personal point, there is going to be a firestorm because I’m going to do everything I can and it may not be pleasant,” Van Drew said.
Lawmakers including Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato sent a letter to NJ Transit’s Executive Director Kevin Corbett demanding a reopening date, saying, “Despite our efforts to keep an open communication line, there seems to be many versions of the planned reopening coming from your office, this confusion is only exacerbating rumors and no train reopening or of North Jersey priorities taking precedent.”
“You know the old saying, ‘promises made, promises kept.’ Well it should be, and if the government doesn’t keep its promise, unless something is so unusual and I haven’t seen that here, so they damn well better get on the stick,” Van Drew said.
The line’s nearly 2,000 daily customers will continue to make do with alternate transportation until the line is reopened.