Bound Brook demands answers on how stuck NJ Transit train kept floodgate open during Ida

The owners of more than 20 Bound Brook homes and businesses damaged by floodwaters from Ida want answers from New Jersey Transit and Somerset County officials.
They say that an NJ Transit train struck on flooded tracks blocked one of the town’s three floodgates, keeping it open during the Sept. 1 storm. The floodgates are part of a $300 million federal project that was supposed to prevent severe flooding.
W&W Auto & Truck owner Bill Yeager says that his business depends on those floodgates.
“That’s what they told us. ‘This project here will save your business,’” Yeager says.
NJ Transit officials say that a Raritan Valley Line train became stuck around 9:30 p.m. amid extreme flooding and debris, blocking the gate from closing.
“They dropped the ball. They dropped the ball hard. We lost a lot,” Yeager says.
Crews from Somerset County finally managed to close the gate around 3 a.m., but by then it was too late. Water from the flood was already coursing down into the neighborhood on the west side of town.
“The gates are welded open, and for security reasons, New Jersey Transit has demanded that they are the only ones that can break that weld,” says Bound Brook Mayor Robert Fazen. “And I understand that, because if they weren’t welded, like I say, some vandal can come and close the gate and wreck a train.”
Fazen says that the Army Corps of Engineers is convinced that if the gate had been closed, it would have held the water back as it was designed to do. The mayor says that the damage the west side of the town sustained is directly related to that stuck gate.
NJ Transit says it had to wait for floodwaters to recede "in order to clear debris and perform the necessary safety inspections" before the train could move. But the agency did not answer why service on the Raritan Valley Line was not suspended earlier.
“I feel let down. I mean I really do, I feel let down. We vested a lot in this place, I put my house up for here,” says Yeager.
W & W Auto & Truck backs up to the floodgate. Yeager says he gave up some of his property to help the project get built. After Ida, he wound up with a foot of water in his business, $60,000 of damage and lost equipment and 11 customers had their cars totaled.
“We’re just trying to pull it together, finish everything and see where we end up in the next three months,” says Yeager. “Pandemic, flood, it’s tough. It’s really tough.”
The mayor says he is hosting a meeting next week between NJ Transit, the Army Corps and Somerset County officials to find out more.