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Navigating Traffic Nightmare, NYC Commuters Await Green Light

Workers try to clear boats and debris from the New Jersey Transit's Morgan draw bridge on Wednesday in South Amboy, N.J., after Monday's storm surge from Sandy pushed boats and cargo containers onto the train tracks.
Mel Evans
Workers try to clear boats and debris from the New Jersey Transit's Morgan draw bridge on Wednesday in South Amboy, N.J., after Monday's storm surge from Sandy pushed boats and cargo containers onto the train tracks.

It's a commuter's nightmare.

Cars and buses are back on the road in New York City and New Jersey, but workers are still trying to put the subway system and commuter trains back in operation after the devastating effect of Superstorm Sandy. It's a process that could take days or weeks to complete.

The impact on the country's most densely populated metropolitan area has been extensive. Here's a look at what is, and mostly what isn't, working:


Subways: The heart and soul of New York City's mass transit network, the subway trains have been suspended due to extensive flooding. Normally, the system provides an average of 5.3 million rides each day. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says "cleanup and water-remediation efforts continue in underwater tunnels linking Brooklyn and Manhattan."

When will it be fixed?: The MTA is testing the subway system with a goal of resuming limited service beginning Thursday. When service resumes, it probably will ramp up gradually. The MTA has issued a map of "recovery service" for Thursday, which you can embed and download, thanks to member station WNYC.

Metro North commuter trains: The Hudson, Harlem and New Haven Lines are suspended due to "significant damage to many portions of [the] system," according to the MTA.

When will it be fixed?: MTA resumed limited service 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Amtrak: Flooding has shut down service between Newark, N.J. and New York's Penn Station. There is also no service from New York to the Northeast Corridor. Officials say the amount of water in the train tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers is "unprecedented."

When will it be fixed?: According to The Associated Press, "Amtrak has laid out plans to resume runs in the Northeast on Wednesday, with modified service between Newark, N.J., and points south."

Tunnels: All but one of the tunnels in and out of Manhattan, normally used by some 8.5 million commuters daily, is shut down due to flooding. The Lincoln Tunnel joining Midtown Manhattan and Weehawken, N.J., is open. But the Hugh L. Carey, Holland, Queens Midtown and Brooklyn Battery tunnels all remain closed.

When will it be fixed?: According to the MTA, it's "too early to say how long it will take to restore the system to full service."

Bridges: All bridges into and out of Manhattan are open, but bridges to Rockaway, Queens, remain closed.

When will it be fixed?: There's no indication of when the Rockaway bridges will be reopened.

The traffic situation: Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday a requirement for "three to a car" for vehicles coming into Manhattan. From 6 a.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday, cars with fewer than three passengers will not be able to enter. Cars during Wednesday rush hours were bumper to bumper on several major arteries in and out of Manhattan on Wednesday due to heavier than normal traffic taking up some of the slack from the subways.


LIRR: The Long Island Railroad commuter train between New York City and Long Island communities is suspended. Officials will assess 7,000 miles of track for storm damage, including flooding, downed trees and power lines on the track. Storm surge from the Hudson River also flooded the LIRR's West Side Train Storage Yard in Manhattan and two of four rail tunnels under the East River were flooded and must be inspected before going back into service.

When will it be fixed?: MTA resumed limited LIRR service Wednesday at 2 p.m.


PATH: . These trains operate between northern New Jersey and New York City. The 13 trains have a daily ridership of more than a quarter million passengers.

When will it be fixed?: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that the system would be down at least seven days.

The traffic situation: Newark and Jersey City had numerous fender-benders due to dark traffic lights, according to the AP.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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