Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
The Port Jervis commuter line, cleaved in two by raging floodwaters roiled by Tropical Storm Irene, reopens today. The washout of 14 miles of track was the most severe damage sustained by a transit agency in modern history.
Scientists and government officials say climate change will bring more frequent weather events like Irene, and without preventative action, similar washouts could become more commonplace. (Full story here.)
For the past three months, passengers traveling to Rockland and Orange counties and points north and west of New York City have endured a frustrating commute.
During Tropical Storm Irene, a raging Ramapo River, otherwise little more than a creek in areas, surged to buckle the tracks, wash out the support ballast, and undermine railroad bridges. Fred Chidester, the manager of the line for Metro North, called it the worst damage he's "seen in 28 years of working for the MTA."
The 14 mile stretch Irene undermined runs from the southernmost tip of Rockland County to Harriman, cleaving the 90-mile line in two. Passengers commuting to New York have had to, in some cases, take a train, then a bus, then a train, adding up to an hour to already long commutes.
About 2600 passengers ride the Port Jervis line each day.
The MTA originally projected the line would be out until the new year, but about a month ago said trains could run down the entire track beginning November 29. Trains will be somewhat slower and run less frequently than before Irene, while track workers complete their work.
The repair work is projected to cost the cash-strapped transit authority $40 million.