* Trees across track, ballast washed away
* Two of Amtrak's four East River tunnels still flooded
By Janet Roberts and Melanie Hicken
NEW YORK, Nov 4 Almost 200,000 suburban New York
City commuters, most in New Jersey, face another work week
without easy rail connections because of storm damage so severe
that experts say it will take months before full service can be
Hurricane Sandy severed train connections for an estimated
435,000 daily commuters in the New York City suburbs. By Monday
morning, full or partial service will have been restored for
Experts with experience repairing rail after other natural
disasters say commuters on some of the most damaged lines are
likely to face a long wait. Some suburban residents may be able
to travel by bus as an alternative.
"Getting the system back to normal, where every train is
operating as it was before the storm, I could easily see it
being months," said Conrad Ruppert, associate director of
research at the University of Illinois Rail Transportation and
"Getting back to operating trains with limitations and
restrictions, you're already seeing that now."
Ruppert worked for 35 years for Amtrak on the Northeast
Corridor, where he oversaw restoration work similar to those
that crews are performing in the region today.
Service on three New Jersey Transit rail lines, one Long
Island Rail Road line and the PATH train remains fully or
partially suspended because of extensive damage that experts say
will require lengthy repairs. Those lines log more than 367,000
passenger boardings on a typical weekday.
New Jersey Transit's rail network transports roughly 46,000
people on 63 trains during a typical weekday morning to New
York's Penn Station, but on Monday it will only be able to carry
15,600 on 13 trains, said spokesman John Durso Jr.
"The road to recovery is still long, arduous and
continuing," he said.
To offset the drop in rail service, NJTransit is boosting
its bus capacity to 115,000, a roughly 28 percent increase.
NJ Transit's heavily used Midtown Direct service - the
Morris and Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines, which together
carry about 35,000 weekday passengers - is shut down
indefinitely because of damage to the Kearny rail junction,
which remained under several feet of water on Friday.
Floodwaters washed ballast from beneath the track in this
area, damage that will require extensive repairs before service
can resume to either New York Penn Station or Hoboken Terminal.
The Midtown Direct lines also have extensive tree damage in
the areas around Summit, Morristown and Denville.
"My guys say it's the worst tree damage they've ever seen,"
said Jeff Reese, president of K.W. Reese Inc., a Mercersburg,
Pennsylvania, railroad contractor. "There are huge, 24- and
36-inch trees lying across the train tracks or lying across the
catenary lines that power the trains.
"The foreman says they don't know when they're going to be
done. I think they're going to be there for at least a total of
Also heavily damaged was the southern section of the North
Jersey Coast Line, from Bay Head to Woodbridge. The storm surge
sent two boats, a shipping container and other debris crashing
onto the Morgan drawbridge at South Amboy, and flooding caused
extensive rail washouts along miles of track south of there.
Service along the northern part of the line, from Woodbridge
to New York Penn Station, has been restored on a reduced
Further complicating service restoration for NJ Transit is
flood damage at Hoboken Terminal, the terminus for Pascack, Main
Line, Bergen County and some Morris and Essex trains. Flooding
was so severe there, the waiting area had more than 5 feet of
standing water. The water washed out tracks and damaged power
substations, signals and switches.
The PATH system, which runs through the tunnel at Hoboken
and which also saw flooding at its Jersey City station, is
grappling with similar damage. New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie said at a press conference on Tuesday that he expected
repairs to take at least a week to 10 days.
The PATH system sees more than 260,000 passenger boardings
on an average weekday and serves as a vital link for commuters
between Jersey City, Hoboken and New York.
SIGNS OF LIFE EMERGING
Elsewhere, the region's commuter rail system is coming back
to life, albeit on a mostly reduced schedule.
NJ Transit's most-traveled Northeast Corridor, from Trenton
to New York Penn Station, had less damage than other lines and
resumed a reduced schedule on Friday. Service resumed Sunday on
a reduced schedule on the Main Line from Port Jervis, N.Y., to
Secaucus and part of the Raritan Valley Line from Raritan to
Newark Pennsylvania Station. Normal service resumed on the
Atlantic City Line from Atlantic City to Pennsauken.
The Pascack Valley and Bergen lines remain suspended because
power remains out in those areas, NJ Transit said. After it is
restored, NJ Transit will have to test and repair equipment
before service can be restored.
Long Island Rail Road had downed power lines, switch damage,
storm debris and flooding throughout the system. Though all but
one of its lines have resumed at least partial service, all
continue to operate on reduced schedules because of continued
flooding in two of Amtrak's four East River tunnels.
MTA recommends passengers travel during off-peak hours when
possible, because trains will be crowded during morning and
evening rush hours.
The Long Beach Branch, which saw the worst damage, remains
out of service. The rail bridge between Oceanside and Island
Park needs extensive repairs. The railroad is exploring options
for restoring service west of Island Park, said Salvatore Arena,
an MTA spokesman.
Ronkonkoma Branch trains are not running east of Ronkonkoma,
and the Montauk Branch remains suspended east of Speonk. Repair
work continues on those lines.
Metro-North was operating all three of its East of Hudson
main lines on a reduced schedule on Friday and began full
service on Saturday. Branch line service from Waterbury, Danbury
and Wassaic will resume Monday morning. Repairs continue on the
New Canaan Branch, where fallen trees severely damaged overhead
wires. Buses will run along that line, connecting to main line