A problem with an aging, malfunction-plagued Amtrak bridge Tuesday caused massive delays for NJ Transit commuters at Penn Station once again.
The century-old Portal bridge, which carries trains over the Hackensack River, opened for maritime traffic shortly before 3:30 p.m., then got stuck in the open position, NJ Transit officials said. That caused 90-minute rush-hour delays, with commuters mobbing Penn Station, waiting to get home.
The bridge, which connects Kearny and Secaucus, had gotten stuck earlier in the day, said Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams.
The span opened shortly before 10 a.m. for marine traffic, and was unable to lock in place after opening, causing delays to three Amtrak trains and several commuter trains. Operators were eventually able to close the bridge and lock it in place about 30 minutes later. But when they opened it again around 3:30 p.m., their luck ran out.
“The bridge was closed and trains resumed operating over the bridge at approximately 4:52 p.m.,” Abrams said.
But by then, the damage was done. Rush hour was well underway, and delays between Newark and New York were approaching 90 minutes.
This wasn’t the first day the bridge had problems. On March 16, the bridge became stuck right before the morning rush hour, because of a mechanical issue.
PATH is accepting NJ Transit rail tickets and passes at Newark, Hoboken and 33rd St., NJ Transit officials said. NJ Transit buses will also honor train tickets and passes, NJ Transit spokesman Nathan Rudy said Tuesday.
An Amtrak spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tuesday’s delays come a day after 1,500 NJ Transit commuters were stranded on a train that lost power shortly after leaving Penn Station.
Commuter Dana Jallad, 40, got caught in both delays.
“This is two days in a row,” said a frustrated Jallad, who commutes to Manhattan from Bucks County, Pa. “Yesterday my train broke down and we had to wait to be pulled back to Newark. I took the 5 p.m. train and didn’t get home until after 9. Now we’re dealing with delays and cancellations since 4 p.m. Now it’s 8. It’s awful, just awful, but that’s NJ Transit.”
Wanda Mims-Cruz, an after-school site manager, said she had been waiting 90 minutes for a train to Montclair, N.J.
“It’s been unbelievable, and it’s been that way quite often lately,” Mims-Cruz said. “I do what I have to do. It’s NJ Transit. We all have to get home.”
Other riders railed on social media about the communing nightmare.
Vania André directed her wrath at New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
“If you can’t fix @NJTRANSIT then pass a bill that forces NJ Transit to compensate commuters for 30+ minute delays and and extra expenses for finding alternate routes to their destination,” André tweeted. “I pay $300 a month for a pass.”