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Transit head: Damaged coast line ahead of schedule

David Porter, Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Partial service on NJ Transit's damaged coastal line could be restored earlier than originally thought, the agency's executive director said Monday.

James Weinstein told The Associated Press that the North Jersey Coast Line could resume operation as soon as next week. The line suffered heavy damage from Superstorm Sandy two weeks ago and has been suspended since.

The most visually dramatic damage to the line was near South Amboy, where several boats from a marina were wedged onto a rail drawbridge along with two large cargo containers. But Weinstein said another bridge that connects Perth Amboy to South Amboy over the Raritan Bay suffered worse damage.

"The tidal surge took the bridge and actually shifted it" off its moorings and knocked the tracks off line, Weinstein said. "The electrical system also took in salt water, and salt water and electrical systems are a bad marriage."

Transit officials and engineers initially estimated it would take months to restore rail service over the bridge. But Weinstein said Monday that the repairs could be completed as early as the end of the week and that service could resume next week. Trains would run from Long Branch to New York City, with service south of Long Branch to the end of the line in Bay Head still suspended.

Weinstein also said service on the Montclair-Boonton line, which has been suspended since the storm, likely would be restored on an abbreviated schedule by the end of the week.

NJ Transit has been gradually restoring service on its commuter lines. Trains began running on a limited schedule on the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor line four days after the storm, and on Monday the Bergen, Pascack Valley and Raritan Valley lines returned to modified service.

More trains will be added once Amtrak finishes repairs on a substation in Kearny that was severely damaged by flooding, Weinstein said.

Weinstein said NJ Transit hadn't finished estimating the total cost of repairs to the system or the total revenues lost because of the service disruptions.