New Jersey Transit’s Hidden Danger: Bad Brakes, Bare Wires, Rotten Parts

By Elise Young

Federal inspectors found scores of New Jersey Transit train cars riddled with fire risks, faulty brakes and electrical hazards as they scrutinized the troubled railroad that brings 95,000 workers to Manhattan daily.

One engine was so defective it was declared unsafe, documents obtained under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act show. In some cases, NJ Transit’s own checks failed to identify faults brought to light a day or two later by Federal Railroad Administration officials. One was a locomotive with seized air valves and misaligned foundation gear that compromised the braking system’s very core. Another had broken equipment that provides traction on slippery tracks.

While federal regulators regularly inspect railroads, safety failures at NJ Transit led them to conduct a deeper audit in 2016. Though the agency appears to have mostly resolved its findings, the inspectors last year tested NJ Transit equipment with unprecedented frequency, uncovering persistent defects that speak to years of budget starvation and routine risks for more than 300,000 daily riders.

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GOV. MURPHY NAMES THREE WOMEN TO CABINET, ATTAINING FIRST FEMALE MAJORITY

COLLEEN O'DEA | FEBRUARY 21, 2018

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy with the three newest nominees to his cabinet (from left) Deirdre Webster Cobb, B. Sue Fulton, and Zakiya Smith Ellis

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With the nomination of three more women to his cabinet on Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy has made history, creating New Jersey’s first female-majority cabinet, as well as the state’s most diverse cabinet to date.

The latest nominees are a former education adviser to President Barack Obama, as secretary of higher education; a former U.S. Army captain and West Point graduate as chair of the Motor Vehicle commission; and a long-time employee of the state as chair of the civil service commission. Murphy introduced the three Tuesday at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

“With these three nominations … we are making history,” Murphy said. “For the first time in New Jersey in 242 years, the majority of the governor’s cabinet appointees will be female. It has taken us a short 56 governors to get to this point ... (But) it’s not just the number of women. I feel confident in saying New Jersey has the most diverse cabinet of any state in this nation.”

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NJ OFFICIALS SCRAMBLE TO SAVE TRANS-HUDSON RAIL TUNNEL AFTER TRUMP SNUB ON FUNDING

JOHN REITMEYER | FEBRUARY 20, 2018

NJ Spotlight

Train crossing the 100-year-old Portal Bridge. The swing gate opens when ships need to pass through, idling traffic until they're clear.

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President Donald Trump’s long-awaited federal-infrastructure proposal has dashed any remaining hope that his administration will commit significant federal dollars to a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel, and that’s left New Jersey’s elected officials and other advocates for the long-planned Gateway infrastructure project trying to figure out what to do next.

For some, the Trump administration’s latest snub is being viewed as a “call to action,” with Gov. Phil Murphy among those who’ve suggested it’s now up to members of the state’s congressional delegation to push hard to make sure Trump is overruled, and that significant federal funding for Gateway is eventually appropriated.

Others, led by state Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Gordon, suggest Trump’s infrastructure and spending proposals should add more urgency to ongoing efforts to boost trans-Hudson capacity through means other than a new tunnel. They include expanding the Port Authority’s PATH train service and adding capacity to the agency’s flagship Manhattan bus terminal.

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This is the first bill Murphy plans to sign as N.J. governor

Gov. Phil Murphy will sign legislation restoring state funding for New Jersey's family planning and health clinics at a ceremony Wednesday, making it the first bill to become law under his administration.

Murphy, a Democrat, made the announcement Monday at a tele-town hall with supporters of Planned Parenthood, the women's health care provider that lost state funding for eight years under Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

"You all have been up against a governor and an administration that opposed funding women's health as a matter of politics, not as smart policy," Murphy said. "Turning our state around to again stand for the right values starts here and it starts now."

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Trump tempts transportation cataclysm. Fund Gateway. | Editorial

Someone needs to inform President Trump that the Hudson River rail tunnels predate his mother by two years. When they opened, transportation alternatives included the Stanley Steamer and the Titanic, and they were dug by Pennsylvania Railroad for inter-city rail - not as a commuter line, and certainly not for a megalopolis.

No doubt, the rail tubes have led productive lives. We've run 20 times the number of trains that they were designed for, and we're up to 450 per day. We got our money's worth.

But now they're dying. Since Sandy, corrosion has been killing these tunnels from the inside out, concrete bench walls are caving in, pipes and cables are exposed, and beneath the skin, wires and steel are rusting.

Their inevitable failure is no longer measured in decades. Their failure will take place in years.

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MORE TRAIN CARS NOW, FIRST STEP TO EASE OVERCROWDING ON NJ TRANSIT

JOHN REITMEYER | FEBRUARY 16, 2018

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy announces measures to relieve overcrowded trains, with Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, acting commissioner of Department of Transportation.

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Gov. Phil Murphy yesterday announced a series of immediate steps that New Jersey Transit is taking to cut down on overcrowded trains, including bringing in train cars from out of state to help boost passenger capacity. He also signaled the state budget he’s planning to present next month will treat the beleaguered agency as a top priority.

Addressing problems at NJ Transit has been an area of emphasis for Murphy since he was sworn into office last month, and one of his first actions as governor was to launch a full-scale operational audit of the agency. That audit is ongoing.

Murphy’s administration also determined that NJ Transit was operating with nearly 40 fewer cars than it would need for a full fleet, with many sidelined for maintenance and equipment upgrades — conditions that have contributed to overcrowding on trains that often force passengers to stand, a common complaint aired on social media and other forums by regular commuters.

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Phil Murphy, Lou Greenwald Map Out Gun Control Efforts in New Jersey

By Steve Cronin • 

Gov. Phil Murphy vowed Tuesday to roll back Christie-era efforts to weaken concealed carry regulations while also tightening other state gun laws, including a plan that would limit the permitted size of gun magazines.

“Together, we can pass the laws that Governor Christie vetoed and reclaim our place as a state that acts on facts and common sense. We must again become a state that values the safety of our residents and communities over the misguided priorities of the gun lobby,” Murphy said during a round table event in Cherry Hill with gun activists and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald.

In 2014, Christie vetoed a bill limiting magazine capacity and refused to meet with parents of children slain at Sandy Hook Elementry School who supported the measure.

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AFTER ONE YEAR, NJ EVALUATES 'GET OUT OF JAIL FREE' PROGRAM

COLLEEN O'DEA | FEBRUARY 14, 2018

NJ Spotlight

 

The state performed well for its first year of criminal justice reform, according to the New Jersey judiciary, but key data is missing from the report and the picture is incomplete.

To keep the program successful, the state is going to need to spend more money and provide more services, noted the report issued by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

"Success will depend on the continued collaboration among the three branches of government and the CJR (criminal justice reform) stakeholders, a sustainable revenue stream that can ensure full funding of the program, and services that provide defendants with the means to ensure their own pretrial success," states the report's summary.

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A Former Pharmaceutical Executive Is Running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Bob Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive, announced he is running for the Republican nomination for Senate here on Tuesday, giving Democratic Senator Robert Menendez a deep-pocketed potential challenger as he seeks re-election after federal corruption charges against him were dropped.

Mr. Hugin, 63, was a top executive at New Jersey-based Celgene for nearly 20 years, and has been exploring a bid for the Republican nomination for weeks, announcing his intent in an email on Monday followed by an official kickoff rally here.

“The state of affairs in New Jersey is not great, in fact, in many ways, is headed in the wrong direction,” Mr. Hugin said, pledging to bring a sense of affordability and responsibility back to New Jersey, and an era of change in Washington, D.C.

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NO EASY ANSWERS TO NJ’S RACIAL DISPARITIES IN INFANT, MATERNAL HEALTH

LILO H. STAINTON | FEBRUARY 13, 2018

NJ Spotlight

 

New Jersey has made big strides in reducing infant mortality, but black babies still die at three times the rate of white newborns and women of all races are more likely to lose their lives during childbirth here than in many other states.

A growing awareness of these poor outcomes — and the significant racial disparity in the statistics — has triggered a new interest among state leaders eager to find ways to improve infant and maternal health in the Garden State. The answer, experts insist, involves addressing poverty and other underlying social factors that have wide and diverse impacts on health and wellness.

On Monday U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman hosted an “emergency meeting” with a handful of healthcare experts, including acting Human Services commissioner Carole Johnson, to explore how the Garden State can better address these issues — including a racial gap in infant mortality that she said is among the largest in the nation. New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Murphy also joined the Trenton event.

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