Power Outage Halts Northeast Corridor Trains, Stranding Thousands

Train service along the Northeast Corridor south of New York City ground to a halt Wednesday evening because of fallen overhead power cables in Kearny, N.J., stranding commuters and travelers on trains and at stations as far south as Washington.

The power outage disrupted service between New York and Newark, starting at 5:05 p.m. and the backups cascaded down the corridor that is the main line between New York and Washington. Some trains bound for Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan, America’s busiest rail hub, terminated in Philadelphia, where passengers were left to find alternate transportation, said Jason Abrams, a spokesman for Amtrak.

At 10:05 p.m., hundreds of people rushed the entryway of track 11 at Penn Station, where a train to Trenton was boarding nearly four-and-a-half hours behind schedule.

At about 10:30 p.m., Mr. Abrams said trains were running again south of Penn Station. By 11 p.m., he said, northbound service had also resumed. But it was not clear if service would be fully restored before the Thursday morning rush.

Sheydline Moise, 23, was shuffling forward in the crowd. She’d left work to catch a 6:27 p.m. train home toward Woodbridge, N.J., and had been waiting at the station ever since. At one point, she boarded a train for about 20 minutes, only for authorities to tell passengers to disembark, she said.

“I almost started to cry,” Ms. Moise said, adding that Uber was quoting a fare of nearly $200. “This has been a super long night,” she said, sounding exasperated. “I’m definitely calling off tomorrow.”

Hundreds of people packed the upper and lower levels of Penn Station, sitting on the floor, lining the steps, leaning against suitcases, all staring up looking defeated at a departures board that listed delay after delay.

“It looks like everyone is somewhat confused,” Jack Ardingron, 72, said as he ate a bag of popcorn and surveyed the scene.

His wife Carol Ardingron, 66, held a playbill for Mother Play, the Broadway show the couple came in from Clinton, N.J., to see. Their train into the city got stuck for about 25 minutes just outside Penn Station, Ms. Ardingron said. “Now we’re stuck on the way out. It’s a nice circle,” she said.

At Union Station in Washington, the last northbound train of the night was boarding just after 10:30 p.m. One of the Amtrak agents in the station said the train would make it to New York — “eventually.”

Mr. Abrams said he did not know what brought the wires down or if the problem was related to the construction in Kearny of a replacement for the 114-year-old Portal Bridge that Amtrak and New Jersey Transit depend on. The new bridge is the first phase of the Gateway project to add a tunnel under the Hudson River and increase rail capacity between New York City and New Jersey.

A spokesman for New Jersey Transit could not be reached for comment.

At 11 p.m., the agency’s website reported that service was suspended in both directions on the corridor between New York and the Metropark station and on the New Jersey Coast Line between New York and Long Branch, N.J. It said service was also suspended in both direction on the Raritan Valley Line. It gave no indication of when service might resume.

Some New Jersey Transit commuter trains continued to operate out of Hoboken, N.J. Riders on New Jersey Transit could have their tickets and passes honored on PATH trains, between Manhattan and New Jersey, according to a spokesman for New Jersey Transit. To avoid Penn Station, travelers also could take ferries to Hoboken, where six New Jersey Transit lines offer service.

Alexandra E. Petri contributed reporting in New York.

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