NJ Transit Begins Trans-Hudson Contingency Planning

Nj Transit Audit
NJ Transit train. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

To many commuters who travel daily between New Jersey and Manhattan, the problems with the local public transit system are seemingly endless. From frequently delayed and canceled trains to packed buses, commutes of only a few miles each way can easily take hours, especially when one part of the region’s transportation infrastructure is briefly taken out of service.

For instance, when there are issues involving New Jersey Transit (NJT) trains at New York Penn Station, riders can walk a block to the 33rd Street station at Herald Square since tickets are usually cross-honored on the already crammed PATH system.

But, what would happen if train service in and out of New York Penn was forced to be suspended for a far longer period of time than just one weeknight rush hour? Now, we have learned that NJT is beginning the process of preparing for what would be done if such a transit disruption took place.

The statewide transportation agency is currently accepting proposals from contractors as part of what it is referring to as the Trans-Hudson Network and Contingency Planning Strategy. NJT spokesperson Lisa Torbic told Jersey Digs that “the work will build on existing relationships between NJ TRANSIT and its sister agencies and transportation partners to develop collaborative transportation strategies to address the potential for an extended trans-Hudson travel disruption to continue moving as many customers as possible, using available transportation modes,” adding that “this could include ferry and others.”

NJT’s Request for Proposals shows that contractors interested in providing “services in the development and assessment of potential near-term incremental contingency strategies and improvement projects to address existing and future travel needs” have to submit their proposals by April 23. The contract is expected to last for 36 months, according to Torbic, who mentioned that the initiatives that will be considered during the strategy in order to facilitate trans-Hudson travel will be studied in phases in conjunction with partners such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Torbic also stated that “this effort will explore opportunities to increase general capacity and flexibility within and across modes throughout the trans-Hudson network to meet current and future needs and also to provide options for our customers during any outages which may occur.”

There certainly are no shortage of rail customers who rely on trans-Hudson travel. NJT’s Morris and Essex, Northeast Corridor, Montclair-Boonton, Raritan Valley, and North Jersey Coast Lines along with 11 Amtrak routes use the North River Tunnels under the Hudson River, connecting the country’s largest city with municipalities as close as Secaucus to cities as far away as Miami and New Orleans. It is no secret that the tunnels are far from modern. In fact, the two tubes that also run deep below North Bergen, Union City, and Weehawken were built by the former Pennsylvania Railroad roughly 110 years ago, meaning that they predate the construction of the Empire State Building, the Woolworth Building, and Rockefeller Center.

For more than two decades, there has been plenty of discussion over what should be done with the tunnels and construction even began in 2009 on an additional set of tubes called the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Tunnel, but then-Governor Chris Christie shut down the project. The existing tunnels were flooded and severely damaged during Superstorm Sandy just a few years later.

Currently, the Gateway Program’s Hudson Tunnel Project calls for repairing the tunnels and building an additional two tubes under the Hudson that would be around 175 to 250 feet below Union City and 80 feet beneath Hoboken. Hearings regarding the project were held back in 2017 but funding for the plans still remains uncertain. Just last week, Bloomberg published a story stating in part that “America’s most-needed infrastructure project lacks America’s most-needed Plan B” and that the United States Department of Transportation would not comment on whether there was a current contingency plan. Some local lawmakers are now calling for one to be created at the federal level.



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  1. Even with the construction of a new tunnel from Hudson County to Manhattan I don’t see it doing much of anything to alleviate rush hour congestion or traffic flow in general. If train service was halted for an extended period ( and that day is coming) then the only alternate route would be boats and ferries which would be even more time consuming than commuter travel is already.

  2. Dedicated bus lanes on the Upper GWB and Henry Hudson/West Side Highway at the least for the contingency plan. Additionally, make the Lincoln center tube bus-only. I don’t think there’s a large enough ferry terminal on the West Side right now that could by itself handle the volume of commuters serviced by Penn/Moynihan. Lastly, those larger Manhattan businesses that could do so should plan for opening remote offices in Jersey City. Increase frequency of HBLR runs to help alleviate the mess that will make at Journal Square and Hoboken terminal.

    Or we could all move to Bucks County.

  3. It has been pointed out that PATH is just about maxed out for additional passenger capacity. It may PATH can add high density signaling to increase capacity slightly but the needed additional cars are still somewhere in the future. That probably just leaves ferry service.

    The present NJT Hoboken train station is about at maximum capacity and only by NJT hiring many more engineers can that capacity be somewhat increased. Sufficient engineers may be 2 -5 years in the future based on present attrition?

    So why not restore the mothballed CNJ Jersey City RR terminal as a standby ferry terminal. To spend as few dollars as possible in planning for this eventually just proceed as follows.
    0. rebuild station platforms to minimal standard for passengers can walk between trains and ferries
    1. Make sure all needed right of way and other properties are acquired and in possession. That includes any utility installations that may have encroached onto the property.
    2. Restore needed ROW to have ability to immediately install needed track.
    3. Tracks, switches, cross ties, still in place just restore to minimum FRA requirements.
    4. Get long term standby contracts for suppliers to immediately provide all materials normally contracted to other RRs for upgrading the ferry terminal infrastructure to FRA class 4 standards.
    5. As well get standby contracts with various RR construction companies to immediately provide necessary equipment and personnel to immediately upgrade all terminal track and approaches to the terminal.
    6. Plan to have NJT and other personnel to man all switches until they are gradually upgraded to automatic operation.
    7. plan to have various train route trains at platforms as soon as possible to allow passengers to get out of rain and other inclement weather.
    8. Once it is determine that tunnel operation is going to be shut down for a long time start upgrading the station for passengers to get out of bad weather.
    9. Get various ferry operators to keep passenger ferries in standby service for operating from Jerzy city terminal.
    10. On the same vein get enough ferry terminals on Manhattan to provide this service.
    11. rebuild station platforms to minimal standard for passengers can walk between trains and ferries.


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