Major portions of the region’s transportation structure remain out of service or limited 6 weeks after Hurricane Sandy devastated the infrastructure. In many cases, the public has received little information about just what has been damaged, how it’s being repaired, or when normal service might improve.
One of the hardest-hit installations was the Hoboken station of the PATH rapid-transit system, a key link for NJ Transit commuters. The station remains closed, with no date announced for its reopening. However, following a tour for reporters conducted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, PATH’s owner, some basic information about the disaster is now available, according to reporting by Steve Strunsky in the Star-Ledger (Nov. 28). Two days after Sandy’s storm surge flooded the station, workers were still trying to assess the damage, as pump operator Tom O’Neill rode a police boat in the flooded tunnels, searching for control valves for the pumps that could begin to empty the tunnels. Starting the pumps required O’Neill, against advice, to work blindly in 4′ of salt water; he eventually got a backup pump going, and the water began to be pumped out. Once workers could inspect critical track and signal components, they found $300 million worth of damage. Old electrical relay technology is being replaced with microprocessors, wire with fiber optics, and the equipment room that contained critical components will now have a waterproof door “obtained from the Navy”. It would be better to move the electrical equipment above ground, but barring a complete rebuild of the entire system that seems impractical. Acting PATH director Stephen Kingsberry said Sandy was “the worst storm we have ever seen”—worst so far, but no one was willing to bet it won’t happen again, or even worse.
As of mid-January 2013, PATH service was still operating on a reduced 24-hour schedule. On weekdays, 5 a.m.–10 p.m., trains operate between Hoboken and 33rd St, between 33rd St. and Journal Square, and between Newark and World Trade Center. Overnight and all day on weekends and holidays, there is no service to World Trade Center; trains operate at those times between Journal Square and 33rd St via Hoboken, and between Newark and Journal Square. There is no direct service between Hoboken and World Trade Center at any time.