Gov. Chris Christie has cut off state payments to Amtrak and called an investigation into the railroad’s track maintenance following two recent derailments of New Jersey Transit trains at New York City’s Penn Station.
An April 3 accident involving a slow-moving NJ Transit commuter train approaching Penn Station marked the second derailment in less than two weeks at tracks maintained by Amtrak in the busy Manhattan commuter hub. The incident caused canceled and delayed trains this week on NJ Transit as well as the Long Island Rail Road, which also utilizes the busy station.
Christie penned a letter Wednesday to Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia saying NJ Transit will halt payments to the agency until an independent investigation determines that its infrastructure is up to date. NJ Transit contributes $2.5 million to $5 million to Amtrak each month for operating expenses, according to Christie’s letter. It also made a $62 million payment in late March for capital investments on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, where NJ Transit runs trains between New York and Trenton.
"These incidents raise serious questions about the condition of tracks and other assets maintained by Amtrak," Christie wrote in his letter that was made public Thursday by the Republican governor’s office. The recurring derailments "indicate Amtrak does not take its obligations seriously and has not effectively applied NJ Transit's considerable payments to the proper maintenance of these assets, which are absolutely essential to its customers.”
Christie added that he has directed State Attorney General Christopher Porrino to look into legal action that would allow New Jersey to recoup the $62 million and other past payments made to Amtrak.
The Amtrak press office did not immediately respond for comment on Christie’s letter. Charles Moorman, Amtrak’s president and CEO, issued a statement Thursday morning saying an investigation has been launched “to ensure that all aspects of our infrastructure at New York Penn Station are in good order.”