Lautenberg: Sandy Forced Shutdown of Largest Port on East Coast, ‘Nearly Grinding Commerce to a Halt’

By Melanie Arter | December 7, 2012 | 9:36 AM EST

FILE - This Oct. 31, 2012 file aerial photo shows the damage to an amusement park left in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, in Seaside Heights, N.J. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

( - Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Commerce and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, said Thursday that Hurricane Sandy led to the days-long closure of the largest port on the East Coast that supports 550,000 jobs in the region, “nearly grinding commerce to a halt.”

“There’s a port in New York and New Jersey – the largest port on the East Coast, which supports more than 550,000 jobs in the region, and because of extensive flooding, dangerous debris in the waterways and damage to electrical systems, the port was largely shut down for days, nearly grinding commerce to a halt,” he said at a hearing on the damage that Hurricane Sandy caused to transportation systems.

Lautenberg said New Jersey residents “suffered multi-hour commutes at two and three times the usual cost or they were forced to sit in endless traffic” because of limited transit and rail access to New York.

“And by the way, in case you weren’t aware, there was heavy traffic before this, so this just magnified the problem that we already had,” he said. “Damage to our transportation had severe economic impact.”

He cited the closure of the port in New York and New Jersey as an example. “Transportation in our region has nationwide impact,” Lautenberg said.

“The millions of people throughout the country who ride our rails, drive through our state or use our products that come through our port also felt the effects of Sandy. While state and local agencies work diligently to get our systems running again, many problems still need to be fixed, and they can’t do it all on their own,” he added.