New Jersey commuters are bracing for what could be the worst traffic jams in decades.
With contract talks deadlocked, New Jersey Transit workers have set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. on March 13 that threatens to shut down one of the New York City's three major commuter rail networks, among the busiest in the nation.
After months of stalled negotiations, New Jersey's congressional delegation stepped up efforts to head off a rail shutdown that would strand hundreds of thousands of riders and generate a surge in traffic on already-clogged bridges and in tunnels across and under the Hudson River. A federal mediation board has stepped in to try to break the deadlock, according to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.
"With a service disruption looming, risking a complete catastrophe for New Jersey commuters and the regional economy, we simply cannot afford to stand idly by," he said Monday in a statement.
The major sticking points include higher health insurance premiums and wage increases. The federal board has recommended that NJ Transit boost workers' pay by about 2.6 percent per year over the next 6 ½ years.
The last time New Jersey commuters faced a complete shutdown of service followed the 2012 flooding brought by Superstorm Sandy, which crippled Hudson River rail service for weeks.