New Analysis Finds 85 Days of ‘Major Infrastructure Failure’ at North River Tunnel, Portal Bridge

Data Shows Almost 2,000 Lost Hours for Passengers, Findings Demonstrate Urgency of Gateway Program to Relieve Delays and Improve Service

New analysis that was issued during a meeting of the Gateway Program Development Corporation (GDC) board of trustees found dramatic delays throughout the Northeast Corridor caused by failures at the North River Tunnel and Portal Bridge, both of which are 108 years old.

The analysis, based on five years of data provided by NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak, found 85 days between the beginning of 2014 and the end of 2018 where infrastructure failures in the tunnel and on the bridge caused more than five hours of delays for NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak passengers. In total, the incidents caused 112,800 minutes of train delay, or almost 2,000 lost hours in extra transit time.

“Regular delays are unacceptable for any amount of time, but these 85 major delay days are particularly bad, adding up to more than one day a month of major delays.” said GDC board Chair and New Jersey Trustee Jerry Zaro. “Commuters are rightly frustrated at being forced to arrive very late to work and parents dismayed over lost time otherwise spent with family and children. It’s past time to build Gateway and give passengers the reliability they pay for and deserve.”

“The North River Tunnel and the Portal Bridge might only represent a few miles of track, but they link 20% of the nation’s economy and carry 200,000 people per day. Incidents that start here ripple up and down the entire Northeast Corridor, particularly when they are causing five hour delays and more. That’s why we’re working so hard to get Gateway funded and built,” said GDC Board Vice Chair and Amtrak Trustee Anthony R. Coscia.

“These major delay days caused by century-old infrastructure are too frequent, and riders have been forced to become too used to them,” said New York GDC Trustee Steven M. Cohen. “Building Gateway is the most effective way to make sure that these unacceptable delays stop.”

Other major findings of the analysis include:

  • The incidents on these 85 days alone accounted for 35% of all train delays and 43% of all delay minutes attributable to the North River Tunnel and Portal Bridge between 2014 and 2018
  • The rate of total delayed trains doubled from 11.8% on an average day to 22.6% on days where there were major incidents at either Portal Bridge or the North River Tunnel
  • There were 65 major infrastructure failure incident delay days involving the North River Tunnel and 18 related to mechanical failures of the Portal Bridge. Two days had combined Portal Bridge & North River Tunnel impacts.
  • Most of the major incidents involving Portal Bridge failure occurred when the bridge would not close properly after being opened for marine traffic and testing, with some of the remaining incidents resulting from bridge fires
  • Even when the Portal Bridge is closed properly, regular openings of the bridge for marine traffic and testing resulted in over 1,000 delays on 230 days between 2014 and 2018
  • Power transmission or catenary failures generated 35% of major delays at the North River Tunnel, while a full 65% were caused by other failures including signal problems or track conditions

The data analysis was conducted by Northeast Corridor Commission staff at the request of Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT on behalf of the Gateway Program Development Corporation. It involved examination of 3 million train movements and some 750,000 daily delay records compiled from Amtrak, NJ TRANSIT and other Northeast Corridor operators. The findings focus on the 1.5 million train movements in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area with additional analysis needed to quantify the ripple effect of these delays on services outside the local area.

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