NJ Transit's Hoboken station will be without electrical power for at least another two months while an interim substation is being completed, executive director James Weinstein said Thursday at a board meeting in which he faced more public criticism for the agency's pre- and post-Sandy performance.
The Hoboken station has been operating on generators since it reopened about a week after the Oct. 29 storm caused flooding from the Hudson River. Most trains that use the station run on diesel power, but the Gladstone branch, which normally runs on electric power, has had to use diesel since it resumed service last week.
That has meant service on the Gladstone and some of the other lines has been cut back to compensate.
The electrical substation was destroyed by saltwater, which has necessitated a two-step process in which repairs are being made to the existing substation while designs are finalized for a new substation.
The interim substation should be completed in eight to 10 weeks, but the permanent one could take more than a year, Weinstein said. He added that the new substation would be elevated above flood level.
Many of the parts have to be manufactured specifically, Weinstein said.
"These are not off-the-shelf items," he said. "You can't just call up the manufacturer and say, 'I'll have a substation 605-A.' They actually are unique and customized to the particular use. So it's going to take us some time."
Weinstein was grilled Monday by members of the state Assembly Transportation Committee on his pre-storm decision to store rail cars in Hoboken and Kearny where they ultimately suffered $100 million in damage, and several speakers Thursday echoed those criticisms.
Others faulted NJ Transit for its post-storm efforts in communicating service outages and resumptions. Some said they had to rely on media outlets for information; others said posted information at stations was outdated weeks after the storm.
"The impression was that NJ Transit was waiting until they had something happy to relate," Mount Tabor resident Patricia Winship told the board. "If you'd confided in us, we might have been sympathetic."
Weinstein conceded that the agency's communications were lacking.
"We heard today that communications was something we could have done a lot better. That is clearly the case," he said. "When a lot of people don't have power, it's difficult to communicate, and we need to figure out a way to work around that."
Weinstein told a Senate transportation subcommittee last week that it will take $100 million to repair or replace rail equipment, including rolling stock, and $300 million more to fix and replace track, wires, signaling, electrical substations and other equipment, as well as to cover the costs of supplemental bus and ferry service and lost revenue.