NJ Transit, Amtrak, PATH and New York Waterways officials confirmed for Wednesday, May 31, hearing in Newark
TRENTON – Assemblyman John McKeon and Senator Bob Gordon and today announced that the Senate Legislative Oversight and Assembly Judiciary Committees will hold a joint hearing next Wednesday on the impact on New Jersey commuters of the agreement reached by NJ Transit, Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad for extensive repairs to New York Penn Station this summer.
“Clearly, the suspension of the Morris & Essex Line’s Midtown Direct Service to New York Penn Station, and the diversion of tens of thousands of displaced rail commuters daily to PATH and New York Waterways ferries will have an impact throughout northern and central New Jersey,” said Senator Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic), chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee. “PATH trains will be more crowded, and thousands of commuters will crowd onto buses or drive to work, creating further delays at the bridges and tunnels. As we have been predicting, the repairs will eliminate about 25% of NJ Transit rail service to New York Penn Station. We need to thoroughly examine the agreement that NJ Transit, Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad reached and ensure that the pain is equally shared among commuters on the three railroads.”
“Gov. Christie’s newfound interest in protecting NJ Transit commuters is very little very late,” said Assemblyman McKeon (D-Essex/Morris), chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. “Where was the governor when commutes and services were badly deteriorating amid massive fare hikes during the first seven-plus years of his administration? Perhaps the situation wouldn’t be this bad had Gov. Christie paid attention and shown deference to commuter concerns. And of course we would be very close to a new trans-Hudson commuter rail tunnel had Gov. Christie not canceled it. Commuters are already facing overcrowding and poor service, and that’s apparently going to get worse in the coming weeks, which is hard to believe. Morris and Essex Line riders – many of whom live in my district – in particular are going to be facing major inconvenience and are of major concern. Commuters deserve and will expect answers at our upcoming hearing.”
NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro; Michael DeCataldo, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor; PATH Director and General Manager Michael Marino; and senior officials of New York Waterways are scheduled to attend the Wednesday, May 31, hearing in Newark.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) expressed concern about the impact of the proposed service curtailments.
“The Governor’s announcement confirms the nightmare scenario laid out in Amtrak’s preliminary plan in April that included 44 days track and platforms closures during morning and afternoon rush hour,” Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen) said. “It’s not going to be enough to have a contingency plan for the 25% reduction in direct service to Manhattan, though; we need to prepare for what happens if there are breakdowns elsewhere in our mass transit system this summer, as there inevitably will be.”
She also expressed concern that the projected $15 million cost of fare reductions and cross-honoring tickets for riders on the Morris & Essex Line not come out of NJ Transit’s budget, forcing deferments of maintenance or service reductions on other lines. “The Governor says he will find the $15 million elsewhere in the budget,” she said. “We’ll take him at his word on that.”
The Wednesday, May 31, hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in the Sheila Y. Oliver Conference Center on the 14th floor of the Leroy F. Smith Jr. Public Safety Building in the Essex County Government Complex, 60 Nelson Place, Newark.