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N.J. Transit Under Fire of Sandy

njtransitBY GINA G. SCALA
COMMENTARY
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

I love the concept of the New Jersey Open Public Records Act, but I admit there are times I wonder did I really need to know that. There is such a thing as too much information and there is the reverse…see New Jersey Transit and how it prepared for Superstorm Sandy.

While I am not ready to fully condemn the agency that operates bus, light rail and commuter rail services, I am reluctant to forgive the multitude of sins committed prior to Sandy; but mostly their unwillingness now, more than six months after the epic storm, to discuss what it did to prepare for the Superstorm.

Claims the agency’s storm preparation plan could present a security risk if released, well, that’s a little too convenient. Still, the logical part of me totally understands how “recent events, including the uncovering of an al-Qaida-led terrorist plot targeting rail services reinforces why NJ Transit will not disclose sensitive information.”

That’s what John Durso, Jr., NJ Transit spokesperson, wrote in an email last week.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I think most people just want to know you and your agency are taking the necessary precautions to limit service interruptions (when possible) and protect commuters.

NJ Transit’s decision to leave its trains at the 72-acre Meadows Maintenance Complex, near the banks of the Hackensack and Passaic rivers,  and in Hoboken, near the Hudson River, has been under fire since Sandy first struck. Sandy damaged 342 pieces of NJ Transit equipment and cost the agency $120 million. While the agency anticipates recouping the money in insurance and federal aid, it’s likely the commuters will be the ones to foot the bill. Isn’t that always the way?

A joint request from the Bergen Record and WNYC/New Jersey Public Radio about whether the NJ Transit branded locations at risk for flooding prior to the storm went unanswered; as did questions about whether rail crews were ready and if police officers assigned to emergency management positions were schooled in deciphering weather reports.

While officials refuse to discuss preparations with the news media in detail, it’s been documented on the agency’s website, statements issued during Sandy and in testimony on both Capitol Hill and in Trenton.

None of this is helping NJ Transit’s case. In most instances, it just widens the gaping hole in how NJ Transit and New York’s MTA prepared for the same storm. Far from being angels, the MTA was ready when Sandy carved her path of destruction Oct. 29.

Add in the fact agency officials ignored a $46,000 climate change study, one they commissioned and that warned of higher storm surges in Kearny and Hoboken, well…it’s easy to see why so many are hot under the collar 196 days after Sandy made landfall.

 

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