Safer Yards for Next Storm?

NJ Transit service as of mid-January continues to be limited since Superstorm Sandy on some lines, mainly those relying on electric service to Hoboken.  Why is the service limited?  NJT has not been particularly forthcoming on this point, but many observers point to limited availability of nonelectric rolling stock, perhaps limited by equipment damaged by flooding during the storm, in yards that proved not to be a safe haven when the water rose.  Now there are reports that NJT is seeking safer havens for its equipment in future storms.  One possibility, according to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Leger  (January 18) is a Conrail rail yard in Linden on the Northeast Corridor.  That yard was once used to stage rail cars used by the nearby General Motors plant, which closed in 2005.

According to NJT VP & General Manager of rail operations Kevin O’Connor, “We have nowhere on our system to bring vehicles out of the [Meadows Maintenance Complex], which was flooded.”  O’Connor spoke at a meeting for the New York chapter of the Transportation Research Forum.  O’Connor also declared, “No, I am not going to resign”, in response to a written question from Joseph M. Clift, former LIRR planning director (and Lackawanna Coalition technical director), if he would “accept responsibility for the decisions that led to $100M in [car and locomotive] damage” by offering his resignation.  “It just seems to me that we have a level of damage that suggests decisions that somebody should take responsibility for,” Clift said.  Many would disagree with O’Connor’s assertion that NJT had no safe place to store equipment, pointing out that there are many miles of mainline track that could’ve been used, including the center track on the Morris & Essex line between Newark and Millburn.  Other railroads, such as the Long Island, reportedly used mainline track to store equipment during the storm, and suffered little damage to their fleet.