Amtrak Portal Bridge

Tom Kaminski/WCBS 880

Century-Old Bridge Wreaks Havoc For Thousands Of NJ Transit Commuters

October 31, 2018 - 7:54 am

KEARNY, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- An infamous clunky old bridge over the Hackensack River got stuck during the height of the Tuesday evening rush, stranding commuters for more than an hour.

The century-old Portal Bridge, which has seen its fair share of trains over the decades, swung open to allow marine traffic to pass, but then it couldn’t close.

That led to yet another NJ Transit debacle, a day after riders were trapped on a broken-down train for more than an hour.

Delays piled up into the evening, and impatience mounted as 90 minutes passed in a train where passengers were shoulder-to-shoulder.

A passenger on one train lost her cool and took out her frustrations on a conductor.

“I don’t care. I am a customer. You are supposed to provide customer service,” the woman can be heard yelling in a recording. "This is your job lady, do it!"

Other riders jumped to the defense of the conductor.

“You’re the only person acting like a child,” one person said. “The only one throwing a tantrum.”

NJ Transit applauded the conductor for remaining calm during the altercation.

Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Murphy said he felt riders’ pain.

“It’s completely unacceptable. They’re incredibly frustrated and so am I,” he said.

But the governor also sounded a tone of optimism: “We’re making a lot of progress. There’s no question about it. We are cracking through the positive train control requirement, which we have to get to in the next two months, and we will get there.”

The Gateway Project, which the White House has opposed, would provide funding for a replacement bridge over the Hackensack River.

"The Portal Bridge replacement is fully permitted and shovel-ready. We, and countless frustrated commuters, are now forced to sit anxiously as the Trump Administration delays in doing its share," Murphy said. "It is past time for the Portal Bridge to be replaced with a modern, reliable span. It is past time for the Trump Administration to fund its share so our commuters can get to work and our economy can get moving."