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    LIGHT AT END OF TUNNEL Escalators back next month, PATH pledges  

PATH Trains Hudson Tubes Hudson & Manhattan RR Repair work will be completed on the escalators in the Journal Square PATH station by the end of August, PATH spokeswoman Tiffany Townsend said. That's 19 months after the work began and seven months after it was initially scheduled to be completed.

For now, three of the nine escalators on both the main entrance and track entrances are still closed and walled off, forcing hundreds of commuters into narrow clogged stairways. And the six escalators that are not walled off frequently aren't working, creating even more of a problem. Townsend attributed the long delay to "some issues with the redesign that had to be redone." She would not elaborate further. She also acknowledged some of the repaired escalators had broken down, but pointed out all were working on the day she was interviewed earlier this month. "Obviously our goal is to have them operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week," she said.

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman told the Journal last year the work was being done in stages to "minimize any unnecessary inconvenience to PATH customers."

But many Journal Square commuters said their inconvenience has been anything but minimized by the lengthy project. "This has been way longer than six months," said Kamau Butler, waiting to catch the 33rd street train last week. "How long does it take to fix an escalator?" Tonya Carter threaded her way down the stairs through a throng of commuters coming up from the platform, only to see the train leaving as she finally reached the bottom. "I miss my train all the time," she sighed. "It gets frustrating."

One commuter sees an even larger concern. "Obviously not making your train is an issue," said visual artist James Gouijn-Stook. "But during rush hour I've noticed it's a safety issue because the walls force people very close to the platform. Passenger safety doesn't really seem to be motivating them." Gouijn-Stook recently moved to the Journal Square area from Downtown Jersey City, and noted the difference in services between the Journal Square and Grove Street stations. "They redid the entire entrance at Grove Street in 18 months and you always heard them working," he said. "Journal Square you never see anyone working."

Townsend said that the two projects were not comparable. "The work at Journal Square is replacement work whereas Grove Street was repair work," she said. Commuters should not expect delays to cease after the escalators are repaired, however. The final phases of the project, which involve repairs to the station's stairs, is likely to last until next spring, Townsend said.

© 2006 The Jersey Journal

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