TRANSPORTATION

Former NJ Transit Executive Says Recovery Will Be Long, Hard

NJ Transit has restored some of its service since Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage to its transportation system, but there is still a lot of recovery to come, according to Martin Robins, the former deputy executive director of NJ Transit. Robins told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that damage to the transportation infrastructure was severe and while progress has been made, full restoration will take some time.

Robins said the hurricane showed the transportation system was more vulnerable than previously thought. “To see so many parts of the system fall victim in so many different ways to mother nature, it was incomprehensible and the recovery is going to be very, very long and hard,” he said.

While the system needs to be rebuilt, Robins said officials need to think about vulnerabilities and redundancies as much as possible because in its current state, the system is subject to severe damage from storms like Hurricane Sandy.

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Robins said an electric substation in the Meadowlands in Kearny feeds the most crucial part of the rail system between Newark Penn Station and New York Penn Station. He said the substation was badly damaged and out of service. “I don’t exactly know where it sits and what kind of a storm would ravage it again, but it’s that kind of facility that is probably going to hold back New Jersey Transit’s recovery,” he said. “That absence of electric power to that particular location that’s probably going to hold back New Jersey Transit’s recovery more than any single thing.”

While the NJ Transit rail system is still in the recovery process, most of the buses are back in service. “People at New Jersey Transit are saying that the bus system saved mobility in northern New Jersey,” Robins said. “Just think a little bit what we deal with on a regular basis is that we haven’t even solved the capacity problems at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.”

Robins estimates that at least half of the 80,000-plus people who use NJ Transit rail service daily are seriously inconvenienced because of the shutdowns.

While there are positive changes happening with lines being restored each day, Robins said full restoration will take time. “There are some critical things like PATH is still not back in service between Journal Square and the World Trade Center and Hoboken and the World Trade Center,” he said. “There was a story today that the damage was beyond anyone’s comprehension so that’s going to take a while to restore.”