Kate Hinds covers transportation for WNYC News.
Power Outage Causes 1,500 NJ Transit Passengers to be Stuck in Tunnel
Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 12:35 PM
A power outage stranded 1,500 passengers on two NJ Transit trains in a tunnel for hours this morning outside of Penn Station.
A spokesman for Amtrak, which operates the tunnel, said the power failure that occurred around 9 a.m. Thursday affected four trains — two of which officials say are being pulled from the tunnel by rescue engines after the others were successfully removed.
Amtrak doesn't know what cause the power outage, and had no estimate for restoration. There were extensive service delays between New York and New Jersey as of noon Thursday.
Passenger Jason Uechi, a software developer, was on the 8:20 a.m. train from Montclair, N.J. He was stuck on the train for more than two hours. He said the lights were on in the car but the air conditioning was not.
“Like any incident in New York, it takes this kind of thing to make people talk," he said, noting passengers were calm and even shared electronic devices. "We were quick to crack jokes about getting rescued and all those kinds of things.”
Robin Isserles, a sociologist on the same train, said the experience of being stuck wasn't great, but "people have been really wonderful, the crew have been informing us when they could. It’s actually been not as bad as expected.”
The tunnels, which run underneath the Hudson River, carry NJ Transit and Amtrak trains between New York and points south. They are at capacity, and officials have been trying figure out how to build another trans-Hudson tunnel for some time. In a bill approved Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee, Amtrak would get $15 million for preliminary engineering of two new Hudson River tunnels next year despite tight budget controls on overall transportation spending.
Last year, citing fears of cost overruns, NJ Governor Chris Christie pulled the tunnel on a new transit tunnel being built under the Hudson, which had already been under construction.