NJ Rail shutdown

Commuters at the Atlantic City Bus Terminal get on the 554 bus to Lindenwold in September, on the first day that the Atlantic City Rail Line was closed by NJ Transit for the installation of federally mandated safety equipment known as positive train control.

The new year is here, the Atlantic City Rail Line remains dormant — and elected officials are looking for answers.

“Still status quo,” Jim Smith, a spokesman for NJ Transit, said Wednesday.

“We don’t want the status quo,” U.S. Rep.-elect Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, said Wednesday, a day before his swearing-in in Washington. “We want much better than the status quo.”

There were no updates available through the press office regarding a plan for reopening the line that closed in September for installation of federally mandated safety mechanisms.

Assemblyman Vincent Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, told The Press an official in Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration said Wednesday they would have a definitive date for reopening within the next couple of days.

He and Assemblyman John Armato, D-Atlantic, sent a letter late Wednesday to NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett as a follow-up to the information given from the Murphy administration.

“With the start of 2019 here we join the many residents of Atlantic County who rely on the transportation services of the Atlantic City Rail Line in requesting a formal reopening date be announced,” they wrote.

“It’s always good to have a paper trail as well,” Mazzeo said.

The federally mandated safety mechanisms known as positive train control were installed on rail lines statewide, but Atlantic City’s was the only line completely shut down. In the interim, commuters have been diverted to buses. In December, NJ Transit announced it had completed its first milestone ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline and was working to get the line running in 2019.

Armato and Mazzeo met with agency officials in December and said their understanding was that the line would be operating toward the first of the year.

“The issue here is really that it was our understanding that it would be up and running sometime in January,” Mazzeo said.

In December, the agency announced it was looking to reopen the line but was first awaiting confirmation by the Federal Railroad Administration of the agency’s request for an extension that would give them until year-end 2020 to fully implement the PTC system.

Van Drew said he’s frustrated by the lack of answers, and that not having an update for commuters is unacceptable. He said he’s giving the agency the benefit of the doubt until the end of the month, however.

“I’m waiting to see in this month of January,” Van Drew said. “If we find that we’re just kind of going along here … there will be hell to pay.”

State Sen. Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, last month addressed a public letter to Corbett, writing that Corbett told him the line would be open at the end of January in the best-case scenario, or March in the worst.

Meanwhile, commuters to Philadelphia and other stops along the line have been riding the bus, dealing with traffic and bumpy rides and uncertainty over when their normal commutes will resume. Last month, the agency announced it was extending a 25 percent discount on bus fares for inconvenienced commuters through the end of January.

Murphy in December gave disgruntled commuters a seat at the table, signing into law a raft of reforms providing for greater oversight of the embattled NJ Transit, including commuter advisory committees for both North and South Jersey.

Contact: 609-272-7260 cshaw@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressColtShaw

Staff Writer

I cover breaking news on the digital desk. I graduated from Temple University in Dec. 2017 and joined the Press in the fall of 2018. Previously, I freelanced, covering Pennsylvania state politics and criminal justice reform.

Load comments