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NJ Transit: We're Being More Transparent About Sandy Recovery

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

NJ Transit's board meetings will now be videotaped, and the agency is expanding the information on its Sandy recovery website.

It's part of an agency attempt to provide more transparency to the riding public -- many of whom have showed up at NJ Transit board meetings since Sandy to complain about confusing schedule changes, last-minute service outages, and a general lack of effective communication.

Jim Simpson, the state's transportation commissioner and NJ Transit chairman, said Wednesday at a board meeting that the videos of each board meeting will be available on the agency's website within 48 hours "to increase transparency on the board. We think it's really a good thing for everybody."

Executive director Jim Weinstein also said the NJ Transit website will now "include a listing of contracts associated with the Sandy recovery, as well as background on all projects." And the site now offers details on agency efforts to repair and replace trains damaged by Sandy.

NJ Transit has been under scrutiny for its decision to store rail stock in flood-prone areas during the storm, which caused nearly a quarter of its fleet to suffer damage.

The board also approved paying another $28.5 million to Canadian rail company Bombardier, which is repairing train cars damaged by Sandy. NJ Transit says it will reimbursed for storm expenses through a  combination of federal aid and insurance money.

Related: NJ Transit Chief: Our Trains, Equipment, Suffered $100 Million In Sandy Damage

Following the meeting, Weinstein less enthusiastic about a different subject: a recent study endorsing a proposal to extend the #7 subway to Secaucus. "It’s not a New Jersey project," he said. "It emanated from the mayor’s office in New York and it clearly has some different points of view in New York, from the MTA." Weinstein sounded lukewarm about the project.  "We'll see where it goes," he said.

One recent bright spot for the agency: Weinstein said NJ Transit got a ridership boost during last week's Wrestlemania, when the agency provided more than 35,000 bus and rail trips to the Meadowlands.  The agency views the event as a dress rehearsal for next year's Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, where the Jets and Giants play. Weinstein, who was on site for much of the event, described Wrestlemania as "quite an enlightening experience."

 

 

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Transportation Nation

Pulaski Skyway to Close for Two Years; No New Rail Tunnel on Horizon

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Pulaski Skyway (photo by Paul Lowry via flickr)

The Pulaski Skyway -- an 80-year old elevated highway that carries 67,000 cars a day in New Jersey -- will partially close for two years beginning in 2014.

The highway runs between Newark and Jersey City and serves as a major feeder for cars and buses accessing the Holland Tunnel into downtown Manhattan. It will shut down to traffic after the completion of the 2014 Super Bowl, being held in the nearby Meadowlands.

The NJ Department of Transportation says it needs that time to entirely replace the existing deck, upgrade ramps, paint and seismically retrofit the Pulaski, which is in "poor condition." The work will cost $1 billion.

While deck work is ongoing, northbound lanes will be closed entirely for two years. Two southbound travel lanes will remain open.

Speaking Thursday in Newark, the state's transportation commissioner, James Simpson, said the work amounts to "basically a new bridge in place." He acknowledged the disruption closing the roadway would cause, but said "we couldn't leave it in its existing state. The only decision was to reconstruct it in place."

The Pulaski is considered "functionally obsolete" because it no longer conforms to modern design standards, and in 2011 the Texas Transportation Institute rated it the sixth least reliable road in the country. (It also ranked #8 on Jalopnik's less scientific list of "the most terrifying roads in the world.") The state says the work will extend the life of the structure by at least 75 years.

The closure of the roadway will have a ripple effect. Drivers who head north to enter the city via the Lincoln Tunnel will find not only crowds, but delays from another massive rehabilitation project -- the Port Authority's ongoing upgrade of the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel known as the helix. Meanwhile, NJ Transit has reached maximum capacity and can't run additional trains into Penn Station. The PATH system is similarly burdened.

As Jeffrey Zupan, a senior fellow with the Regional Plan Association, puts it: "The automobile options are now worse for two years, and there's no relief in site from point of view of a new rail crossing."

Zupan is referring to the ARC project, an $8.7 billion trans-Hudson tunnel that, when completed, would have boosted rail capacity between New Jersey and New York. Construction on the new tunnel began in 2009 -- only to be cancelled in 2010 by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who said the state couldn't afford it.

Christie is using the money set aside for the ARC tunnel to shore up roads and bridges in the state -- among them, the Pulaski Skyway.

Preliminary work is underway on a study for the next iteration of a new rail tunnel -- this one known as Gateway -- but shovels are nowhere near ready to turn dirt.

"You've really created a perfect storm of transportation chaos -- you haven't created a new transit option and you've made driving options worse," says Zupan.

Another view of the Pulaski, spanning the Passaic & Hackensack Rivers in Jersey City (CC via wikimedia commons)

The Skyway is named for General Casimir Pulaski, a Polish-born hero of the Revolutionary War. It's on the National Register of Historic Places. And it was also referenced in Orson Welles' 1938 radio drama War of the Worlds. "The enemy now turns east," reads a line in the script, "crossing Passaic River into the Jersey marshes. Another straddles the Pulaski Skyway."

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Transportation Nation

FAA Shutdown Stops Research at Florida Aviation School

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Entrance to Embry Riddle (photo by Aerojimmy via Wikimedia Commons)

(Orlando -- WMFE) The Federal Aviation Administration’s partial shutdown is impacting projects beyond just airports.  Embry Riddle University in Daytona Beach has two contracts that have been put on hold -- and several of their staff members are affected.

One is a $20 million dollar project related to general aviation research. The other is a $245,000 contract that covers several projects, including research on the NextGen air traffic control system and helping small aircraft pilots get better weather information.

Embry Riddle spokesman Robert Ross says the $20 million dollar contract is split among research programs at several schools across the U.S. and is distributed by an FAA project called the Center of Excellence for General Aviation Research -- or CEGAR, which is headed up by Embry Riddle.  It includes projects like a $1 million dollar effort to create a GPS-based system to allow airplanes to see each other in real time while flying.

Ross said about 10 people at Embry Riddle and other universities conducting research through CEGAR are affected by the furlough of the FAA’s monitors and grant reviewers. Some Embry Riddle research is monitored by FAA staff who oversee contracts, so those projects are on hold until federal funding comes through.  Ross also pointed out that the university's FAA grant seeking is on hold --  faculty researchers at the aviation school can’t submit proposals to the agency for research funding because of the federal furlough.

The FAA’s funding expired on July 22nd.  FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen says stopped  projects won’t restart till Congress passes -- and the president signs -- an extension of the FAA reauthorization bill.

For more TN coverage on the FAA shutdown, go here.

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