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Delay In Funding Gateway Tunnel, Portal Bridge Fixes Costs Passengers 2,000 Hours A Year

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A new report shows NJ Transit and Amtrak riders suffered through 85 days of major infrastructure failures in five years.

The findings demonstrate the urgency for the Gateway Tunnel and the Portal Bridge Projects, reports CBS2's Meg Baker.

Train data shows passengers lost 2,000 hours because of failures at the 108-year-old North River Tunnel and Portal Bridge.

Commuter advocate Brian Fritsch of Build Gateway Now says these delays and cancellations wreak havoc on people's lives and the economy.

"James from Fanwood talked about missed meetings, missed time with family and missed opportunities," said Fritch.

Steven Sigmund with the Gateway Program Development Corp. says from 2014 to 2018, there were 65 major incidents involving the North River Tunnel caused by power failures, signal problems or track conditions.

Of those, 18 major incidents at the Portal Bridge that caused 780 hours of delays, mostly because the swinging bridge would not close.

MORE: Plans Underway For Gateway Project Development Commission

"We've talked about fact a person come out with a hammer and hit it back into place," said Steven Sigmund, chief of public affairs for the Gateway Program Development Corp. "Every time the Portal Bridge swings open, it causes at least 20-minute delay."

Gateway proponents hope these stats persuade those in charge of federal funding to act. New York and New Jersey recently passed legislation to split the local revenue portion of the $30 billion project.

Even with both states cooperating, the project is frozen without federal support.

"I can't imagine that even the president of the United States, who live in New York, cannot understand the importance of this project," said New Jersey State Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

"Once we get the funding, it will take the better part of a decade to complete the work," said GDC board chair Jerry Zaro. "Every day is critical."

Zaro says there are no welcome mats being rolled out in Washington right now, and it sounds like commuters can expect to tack on more hours of wasted time.

Some suggest a quick fix in the tunnel would be to elevate and place electrical cables on the wall, rather than burying them in the wall. Gateway officials say this would only solve one third of the problems.

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