NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A system that allows the Port Authority to alert motorists through their AM radio during an emergency in the Lincoln and Holland tunnels has been inoperable for months, possibly years, but that all changed as the result of a 7 On Your Side investigation.
In response to our efforts, the Port Authority started making repairs on the critical alert system within the past few days. Those repairs continue today.
Weeks ago, electrical engineer and forensic audio expert Paul Ginsberg reached out to 7 On Your Side Investigates after he said the Port Authority ignored his repeated attempts to get them to fix the AM rebroadcast system.
For months, Ginsberg noticed that AM stations would lose frequency when he drove through the Holland or Lincoln tunnels.
"I have volunteered to go in and do a diagnostic analysis at no charge," Ginsberg said. "This should be a high priority. The Port Authority needs to have a quick and efficient way to communicate with drivers stuck in the tunnel during an emergency."
In a just-released statement, the Port Authority claims the radio alert system has been repaired in the Lincoln Tunnel and "is operational," but with a humming sound. The agency said repairs are being finalized on the Holland Tunnel's system "to correct a connectivity issue. It should be operational soon." The Port Authority also pointed out that even when the AM system is down, the agency "can communicate with motorists through emails and cell phone apps."
Ginsberg says that's fine as a back-up, but since most motorists listen to AM radio for traffic updates, he says the rebroadcast system is the fastest, most efficient way to reach motorists stuck in the tunnel because of an accident, fire or smoke condition.
Taxi driver John Lager uses the tunnels regularly.
"It needs to be fixed," he said. "If you don't hear anything, that's a big problem."
The Port Authority says it employs additional broadcast channels, including e-alerts and the CrossingTime app, but Ginsberg says motorists have to know about these services and have them on their phones. With the AM system, Ginsberg says motorists can get the alerts instantly on their radios.
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