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Amtrak, U.S. Coast Guard agree to Portal Bridge restriction

December 15, 2004

NEWARK, NJ — In response to a joint request by NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak, the U.S. Coast Guard has agreed to a second 90-day period of limited rush hour openings of the Portal Draw Bridge. The agreement comes at an important time for travelers and shippers as river traffic peaks during the winter months.

The Portal Draw Bridge spans the Hackensack River about six miles west of New York Penn Station on the Northeast Corridor, providing a critical link between New Jersey and New York City. On a typical weekday, the bridge supports136,000 NJ TRANSIT customer trips on MidTOWN DIRECT, Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line trains. Amtrak trains provide an additional 19,000 trips over the bridge each day.

The U.S. Coast Guard first tested limited Portal Bridge openings with great success last March, thanks to the support of Amtrak, the U.S. Coast Guard and shippers such as Amerada Hess, the Bergen County Utility Authority, Hornbeck Offshore and Moran Towing.

During the first 90-day test period, the number of bridge openings decreased from 13 to one, or 92 percent, and the length of train delays decreased from 20 ¼ hours to 54 minutes, or 96 percent, compared to the same period in 2003.

“Limiting the number of bridge openings improves our performance and reduces delays that to our customers,’’ said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director George D. Warrington. “On a typical weekday, 230 NJ TRANSIT trains cross the bridge during peak periods when nearly 70 percent of our customers travel.”

On December 13, 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard initiated the second 90-day test to reduce the number of bridge openings between the weekday peak hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Under current federal regulations, the bridge is not opened on weekdays between the hours of 7:20 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. and between 4:30 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. During the extended hours of the test, bridge openings will be limited to commercial vessels that face tidal conditions or other conditions affecting safety.

Coast Guard Solicits Feedback

The U.S. Coast Guard may decide to permanently limit bridge openings during peak periods if the results and public feedback are favorable during the second test.

Customers may contact the U.S. Coast Guard prior to April 12, 2005 to submit comments at the following address: Commander (obr), First Coast Guard, District Bridge Branch, One South Street, Battery Park Building, New York, N.Y. 10004.

Comments must include your name, address, identifying docket number CGD01-04-144 and a reason for each comment. Comments must be submitted on 8 ½-by-11-inch paper and able to be photocopied.

Copies of comments submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard may also be mailed to: NJ TRANSIT Customer Service, c/o Bridge Comments, One Penn Plaza East, Newark, NJ 07105.

The full regulation can be found on page 68079 of the Federal Register/ Vol. 69, No. 225/ November 23, 2004, by visiting the U.S. Government Printing Office website at Enter Regulation 33 CFR 117.723(c) in the search box and click “submit.”

NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 752,600 daily trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 11 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 163 rail stations, 52 light rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.