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NJ Transit Still Not Answering Why They Stored Trains in Meadowlands During Sandy

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 12:34 PM

A photo of sandbags surrounding electrical equipment at NJ Transit's Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny, NJ (Kate Hinds/WNYC)

At its first public board meeting since word broke last month NJ Transit disregarded its own hurricane plan during Sandy, executives were sticking to their story.

A WNYC/Record investigation found that the decision to store trains in the Meadowlands came after years of missed warnings. But NJ Transit's hurricane plan -- released after the newspaper The Record sued the agency to provide an unredacted copy of the document -- calls for moving trains to higher ground and makes no mention of harboring trains at the Meadows Maintenance Complex.

--> NJ Transit Disregarded Its Own Hurricane Plan

When asked at Thursday's board meeting why the agency had not followed its plan, executive director Jim Weinstein wouldn't provide a clear answer.

"The MMC had never flooded before in history of NJ Transit, it was not identified as a flood-prone area, and the equipment was moved there," he said. "It is our largest maintenance and repair facility -- at any given time, whether it is an emergency evacuation period or just a normal day, there are at least 250 cars in there."

He added: "We now know -- we were informed by what happened in Sandy -- and we've made provisions to make sure that it doesn't happen again."

During Sandy, over a quarter of NJ Transit's rail fleet was flooded, frustrating commutes for months -- and costing $120 million in damage.

Weinstein said NJ Transit has updated its hurricane plan. (Note: earlier this month, WNYC filed a formal public records request with NJ Transit for its release.)

--> How NJ Transit failed Sandy's test

Sandy recovery work continues at the agency. Extensive remediation work is taking place at the Hoboken Terminal, which flooded with not only salt water from the nearby Hudson, but also "pollutants, bacteria, oil, gas, garbage," according to Weinstein.

The agency also spent $500,000 on sandbags to place around sensitive electric equipment at the MMC.

 

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Comments [4]

Cynic

Given that NJT is working to add storm-storage capacity in yards in Linden and in Cranford, it's unlikely that on post-Sandy reflection the places mentioned have a great deal of value in a Hurricane.

The pattern on gotcha stories is just so tedious.

The Montague Tunnel is still out of operation for 2 years though? Good thing that wasn't because of anyone's incompetence.

Sep. 13 2013 01:51 PM

Cynic: page two of NJ Transit's hurricane plan (see here: http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/transportation-nation/2013/aug/19/nj-transit-disregarded-hurricane-plan/) lists several such yards: Woodbridge, Waldwick Yard, Bergen Tunnel tracks in Hoboken, and Hudson Yard, among others.

Sep. 13 2013 01:29 PM
Matthias from New York, NY

NJT put the wrong numbers into their storm modeling software, ignored numerous warnings and now even <i>their own</i> hurricane plan. The incompetence is astounding, and still no one has been held accountable.

Sep. 13 2013 01:27 PM
Cynic

I get that you're not making any career headway in public radio unless you stalk Republicans on whatever issue is supposed to stick, but where exactly is the "higher ground" you mention? What does that mean? During hurricane Irene the year before, NJT avoided mass destruction to its rail fleet by using the Meadowlands yard. The place had been a great resource for NJT and its predecessor (Pennsylvania Rail Road) for about 100 years. Was there another "higher ground" yard or yards that could have been used? If so, do you care to identify it or them? If it or they had to be constructed, it's pretty obvious that as a practical matter there was no higher ground to place several miles of rail cars.

Sep. 13 2013 11:09 AM

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