Wisniewski: NJ Transit Rail Equipment Storage Decision During Sandy Again Called Into Question

Long-Term Impact Report Indicated Flood-Affected Rail Yards were in ‘Storm Surge Areas’

(SAYREVILLE) – Assembly Deputy Speaker and Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Chair John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) on Wednesday questioned whether New Jersey Transit should have paid closer attention to a report that warned that the agency should prepare for record storm surges that could threaten its infrastructure in the days leading up to Super-storm Sandy.

According to The Record of Hackensack, New Jersey Transit received a long-term environmental impact report which indicated that both the Kearny and Hoboken rail yards were in storm surge areas. Super-storm Sandy flooded both areas, wiping out rail cars and spare equipment stored there in advance of the storm and causing millions of dollars in damages.

Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) issued the following statement:

“Everyone can still agree that Sandy was an unprecedented storm, however, today’s news begins to make me question whether New Jersey Transit officials employed all the storm data at their disposal as effectively as possible.

“The long-term study clearly indicated that the Kearny and Hoboken rail yards were in storm surge areas – something that Sandy unfortunately proved to be true. So, once again we must ask why these areas were chosen to store rail cars, equipment and spare parts that will now take millions of taxpayer dollars to replace.

“And even if we accept at face value the assertions of NJ Transit officials that the report was general and expressed these concerns over the course of the next 20 years and thus was safe to ignore, there is still the matter of the agency’s own internal reporting suggesting that there was as much as a 20 percent chance that these rail yards could flood.

“At best, some very poor decisions were made. At worst, NJ Transit ignored significant evidence of potential flood risks because ‘it had never happened before.’ Whatever the case, taxpayers and commuters suffered because of the decisions made. If NJ Transit does not effect swift and significant changes to its storm planning and long-term flood mitigation efforts, then taxpayers and commuters should demand those changes come from the Legislature, because we simply cannot afford to ignore the expensive lessons Sandy has forced us to learn.”