July 20, 2024


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The busiest transportation hub in the United States has been rocked by days of delays amid a heat wave

The busiest transportation hub in the United States has been rocked by days of delays amid a heat wave

Extreme heat combined with strained infrastructure, breakdowns and mechanical problems on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit have caused massive hardship and delays for tens of thousands of passengers across the Northeast this week.

Rail service between New Jersey and New York's Penn Station was suspended Thursday ahead of the evening commute and again Friday morning, with… Quoted by New Jersey Transit “AMTRAK Overhead Wire Problems.”

While the root cause of these disruptions is still under investigation, they occurred during some of the hottest days of the year so far, leading to extended commutes amid an early summer heatwave.

“Unfortunately, a unique set of events recently caused significant delays in the New York area, impacting travel along much of the Northeast Corridor,” Amtrak Chairman Roger Harris said in a statement Friday.

On Thursday, the circuit breaker that supplies power to the trains “suffered a catastrophic failure on one of the hottest days of the year, and a dangerous wildfire came close to our tracks,” Harris added.

Amtrak is also working with New Jersey Transit “to understand and address recent disruptions associated with NJT trains operating on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor infrastructure, which appear to be unique in terms of equipment and region,” he said.

Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains share a century-old tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey. It is the only commuter rail line between Manhattan and the rest of the Northeast Corridor, which runs from Washington, D.C., to Boston.

Infrastructure stressed by extreme heat

While no single cause has been identified for this week's transportation disruptions, rail experts noted that extreme heat has the potential to strain infrastructure.

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Many trains use a long, welded piece of metal called a “continuous weld” to operate, and when temperatures rise, it expands, creating pressure and forcing the track to bend, said Curtis Morgan, head of the Department of Shipping and Trade and one of the lead researchers. Scientist at Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

“It could cause a deviation,” he added. “Due to the additional pressure on the railways, trains were ordered to run at a slower speed.”

this week, Amtrak warned High temperatures across the region forced some trains to move at slower speeds, resulting in hour-long delays.

Most Amtrak trains run between 125 and 155 mph, but when temperatures approach triple digits, the trains slow to between 80 and 100 mph, she said. Gerhard Williams, Amtrak's executive vice president of service delivery and operationsAdding that the extreme heat played a small role in the train disruption this week.

New York City is under a heat warning through Sunday evening, with the heat index at times reaching nearly triple digits, according to National Weather Service.

Clinton J. said: Andrews, director of the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University and an expert in engineering, urban planning and climate change mitigation, said the summer months will add pressure on rail infrastructure.

“Summer heat, like any extreme weather, tests our infrastructure systems, as well as our bodies. In the case of mass transit, especially fixed-rail transit, there are special concerns,” Andrews said. “The first is that both tracks are made of steel. The wires that provide power to electric trains tend to expand during a heat wave.”

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Most of the delays and cancellations this week in New York City's metropolitan area were caused by electrical and overhead wire problems, a faulty circuit breaker and a stalled train at Penn Station, transportation officials said.

Mona Hemmati, a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University who specializes in climate physics, said the public can expect future delays and cancellations on mass transit based on extreme weather caused by climate change.

“It is important to understand that high temperatures increase the risk of derailment. You have to take into account the effect of high temperatures on steel, wires, etc.,” she said, referring to the wires that provide power to electric trains.

“We are seeing more heat waves due to climate change, rising temperatures and warming air. We should expect longer periods of extreme heat,” she added.

New Jersey Transit did not comment on the weather-related delays, but said in a statement Friday that the impact of its service on customers this week was “unacceptable.”

“We are as frustrated as our customers,” she said.

New Jersey Transit operates 700 trains each weekday over hundreds of miles between Philadelphia and New Haven, Connecticut, but the vast majority of disruptions occurred between New Jersey and New York.

Passengers are frustrated

Many passengers who struggled this week said they hoped the situation would improve soon.

“I used the NJT three times this week, and each time I failed. I wrote a play, and I was almost two hours late to practice on Tuesday,” said Roma Torre, a New Jersey resident and former anchor for local news channel NY1, who regularly rides New Jersey’s transit system. “The problem is poor service, although I fully understand that we have infrastructure problems.”

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“I've had problems every day this week,” said Tina Palazzo, an attorney who commutes to Manhattan on New Jersey Transit. “It took me more than three hours to get home yesterday, when it usually takes me an hour to commute.”

Palazzo, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, said she took time off work Tuesday to make sure she wouldn't miss her son's high school graduation.

She said about her movements this week: “It is terrifying, and communication is non-existent.”