Failures at the century-old Hudson River rail tunnel and its companion, a New Jersey swing bridge, chewed up almost 2,000 hours of travel time over five years, according to an analysis by replacement-project proponents.
The study, by the Gateway Program Development Corp., examined “major incident day” figures from New Jersey Transit and Amtrak, owner of the tunnel and Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus, from 2014 through 2018. On 85 days, it found, glitches tied up rail travel for at least five hours.
The bridge and tunnel, both operating for 108 years, are major choke points on the Northeast Corridor, the busiest U.S. passenger-rail route and a key one for New Jersey commuters. Gateway, whose sponsors include Amtrak and NJ Transit, want to replace the tunnel and bridge and make other New York City-area rail improvements. But President Donald Trump has resisted committing billions of dollars in federal funding.
The tunnel, with an estimated replacement cost of roughly $13 billion, has been called America’s most urgent infrastructure need by some members of Congress. It has become increasingly unreliable since it was inundated by hurricane-driven floodwater in 2012. Amtrak says the tunnel is safe, but if it were to fail, it would cut access to a region that generates 20% of the nation’s gross domestic product.
“It’s past time to build Gateway and give passengers the reliability they pay for and deserve,” Jerry Zaro, chairman of the development corporation, said in an emailed statement.
The data showed major tunnel delays on 65 days, with 35% attributable to power failures, and the rest involving signals, tracks and other systems. In all, 2,500 trains were affected. The bridge – so balky that at times it must be smacked with a sledgehammer to close — had malfunctions on 18 days, with more than 1,000 trains held up.
On days with major bridge or tunnel trouble, NJ Transit reported that 27% of its commuter trains were late, double the typical figure, while Amtrak reported more than one-third late. The incidents also delayed 16% of Long Island Rail Road trains, which share tracks at Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan with NJ Transit and Amtrak.
Updated Monday, July 22, 2019 at 2:49 pm rail delays