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Limited Portal Draw Bridge openings begin March 1

To improve the New York commute, NJ TRANSIT has worked with Amtrak and the U.S. Coast Guard to limit openings at the Portal Draw Bridge during peak periods, Executive Director George Warrington announced today.

The Portal Draw Bridge spans the Hackensack River about six miles west of Penn Station New York on the Northeast Corridor. On an average weekday, 50,000 commuters travel over the bridge on their way in and out of New York City on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line and MidTOWN DIRECT service.

Effective March 1, 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard will initiate a 90-day pilot program to reduce the bridge openings between the weekday peak hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 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 4:30 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. During the extended hours, bridge openings will be limited to commercial vessels that face tidal conditions or safety requirements.

“Improving the commute for the thousands of residents who travel between New Jersey and New York is a vital component of their overall quality of life,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman Jack Lettiere. “This is an historic step, and I, on behalf of Governor McGreevey commend all the parties involved for their cooperation.”

“Over the last 10 years, NJ TRANSIT has increased train frequency in and out of New York during the peaks to respond to market demand by about 110 percent,’ said Warrington. “Widening the windows to reduce the impact on our customers is a tremendous opportunity to improve our New York service. I want to thank Amtrak, the Coast Guard and the shippers and carriers for their cooperation,” he said.

In 1994, NJ TRANSIT operated 88 trains in and out of New York in the peak; 1999, 124 trains; 2002, 140; and today, 186.

In addition, in 2003, there were 141 openings for river traffic that delayed 424 trains. In December, 25 bridge openings delayed 93 trains.

Based on the results of the pilot program, NJ TRANSIT may ask Amtrak and the U.S. Coast Guard to make the changes permanent.

NJ TRANSIT would like to thank the U.S. Coast Guard (First District Bridge Program Administration) and Amtrak, and the shippers and carriers, Amerada Hess, Bergen County Utility Authority, Hornbeck Offshore and Moran towing for agreeing to this test.

NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing bus, rail and light rail services for 752,600 daily trips on 238 bus routes, two light rail lines and 11 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 162 rail stations, 29 light rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.