N.J. Transit Agency Discusses Service Shutdown

Steve Inskeep speaks with New Jersey Transit spokesman John Durso about the mass transit agency's shutdown of service due to Hurricane Sandy.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

If you've never lived in the northeast corridor, it's hard to express just how much that region relies on railroads - from subway lines to commuter lines to Amtrak, all of which closed due to flooding from Hurricane Sandy. New Jersey Transit normally provides almost one million rides per day on its buses and trains. I used to be one of those people. It's almost all stopped. And we have reached John Durso of New Jersey Transit.

Welcome to the program, sir.

JOHN DURSO: Good morning to you and to all of your listeners.

INSKEEP: Do you know how much damage was done yet?

DURSO: Well, I'll tell you this. It was much more than any of us here in New Jersey could bear. This was a storm of epic proportions. And just to give you a point of reference, there were more than two million power outages in the Garden State alone during that time. And we have nine million people living in New Jersey. That's one heck of a ratio.

INSKEEP: Well, let's focus on the railroads here.

DURSO: Well, I'll tell you, that damage trend certainly translates into our railroad. In fact, it crippled our system across the state. I would even call it destruction; our rails, our rail yards, our critical operation centers. This was unprecedented damage.

INSKEEP: And when you talk about that damage, do you have, what, tracks undermined by water? That kind of problem?

DURSO: We have had tracks that have been undermined by water and, in fact, have been washed away. We have had bridges that were hit by boats, area roadways that have been impacted. We have had wires and trees down on every single one of the New Jersey Transit's rail lines across the state, whether it was in north Jersey or in south Jersey.

INSKEEP: That doesn't sound like something that you can fix in a few days.

DURSO: No. And we've been honest with our customers. And the reason we've been so focused on public outreach is to let the public know, let our customers know about the extent of the damage that is out there. To let them know that we are working around the clock to continue to assess the damage and to let them know that this process is going to take some time.

INSKEEP: Are there some of the rail lines that might be closed for weeks or months here?

DURSO: I would not want to speculate or even make an estimate. What I would tell you is that all New Jersey Transit operations, with the exception of a small section of bus service that has been restored within Camden in south Jersey, all remain suspended until further notice at this time.

INSKEEP: Do you have the money and the manpower to make repairs?

DURSO: I'm going to tell you this. We have the best transit workers and we have the best transit police professionals in the country. And they are working around the clock right now not only to keep our system safe and our customers safe, but to help restore service as quickly as possible.

INSKEEP: In just a couple of seconds, are you able to provide alternatives for rail lines that may be closed for a while?

DURSO: Well, we do have cross-honoring that is in place, but as you have seen, and I know your listeners know, this storm has impacted our entire region.

INSKEEP: OK.

DURSO: OK? So not only are we affected, but the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the MTA, everyone's affected by this.

INSKEEP: John Durso of New Jersey Transit. Now, Mr. Durso was talking there about New Jersey Transit, the commuter rail system there. We can tell you today that Amtrak, the interstate rail system is resuming limited service in the Northeast, including parts of New Jersey.

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