Thursday, January 03, 2013

PATH touts weekend service resumption

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PATH trains linking Newark, N.J., and the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan will resume running on the weekends, beginning this weekend, Jan. 5-6, continuing an on-again, off-again pattern in place since the system was crippled by Hurricane Sandy. Operating hours on the weekends will be from 5:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.

PATH trains currently operate over three of the system's four routes from 5:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. on weekdays only (with some holiday exceptions). Overnight and weekend operation has been disrupted or suspended for more than two months as workers restore signals and other infrastructure.

But weekend service will be lacking for two other existing routes, linking Journal Square (Jersey City) with 33rd Street in Manhattan and linking Hoboken with 33rd Street. A fourth route, Hoboken to the World Trade Center, has yet to be restored in any fashion.

A statement Jan. 2 from PATH and its parent, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, touted the weekend service restoration procedure as a step toward eventual full service. In part, it said, "The Port Authority anticipates the change in weekend service will help restore 24-hour service in seven to 10 days. Workers can make repairs to the PATH system significantly faster when power to third rails is turned off, with no trains running in active construction zones. As first announced by the agency prior to the start of the holiday season, a weekend of suspended service provides PATH crews with 48 hours or more of uninterrupted work time, which in turn has been helping to shave several days off of the recovery schedule for 24/7 service."

"The storm damage to equipment throughout the PATH system was enormous. Salt water that poured into the Hoboken tunnels shorted out electrical systems and corroded decades-old equipment, rendering much of it inoperable. Fixing the system has required complicated staging operations, following the extensive pumping of water from the station and connected tunnels along with restoration of power in the first days of recovery. Damage assessments of signals, switches and tracks followed, with removal of destroyed equipment and ongoing efforts to get certain replacement parts manufactured. Thousands of wires to signals and switching equipment need replacement, with each individual wire requiring subsequent safety testing," the statement said.

Some New Jersey political officials, along with New Jersey rail advocates, have suggested that PATH may be taking the opportunity to accelerate its installation of Communications-Based Traffic Control (CBTC), which was in the planning stages prior to Hurricane Sandy's impact on the system. PATH and PA officials have not commented on the matter.