Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Failing to Spend on Infrastructure Main Driver of NJ Transit Rail Delays

This is something I've been harping on for years. NJ Transit has failed to maintain its infrastructure, but Amtrak's deficiencies are driving the delays on those NJ Transit trains that use the Northeast Corridor. That includes the functionally obsolete Portal Bridge between Newark and Secaucus. 75 events involving the Portal Bridge led to delays across NJ Transit. Signal problems are another major source of delays. And the NJ Transit reporting of delays is itself skewed. It considers a train to be on time if it arrives up to 6 minutes late. When NJ Transit trains are supposed to be timed with connecting trains or PATH, the six minute difference can lead to more commuter misery with additional delays. Clearly, everyone recognizes the need to replace the Portal Bridge, but apparently no one has decided to start work on the project or set aside the funds to make it happen. It's been tied into a larger Northeast Corridor plan to upgrade rail speed and the construction of the Gateway Tunnel. That isn't necessary. The bridge can be built well ahead of any decisions on Gateway. Relieving that bottleneck will improve efficiencies and improve reliability. Another reason for the problems is that spending on infrastructure and repairs hasn't kept up with inflation, so the money isn't going far enough. In the end, commuters don't care who owns the lines or is responsible for the repairs; they want to see them done.

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