Before a tentative agreement was reached (see above) to avoid a threatened March 13 strike, NJ Transit said they were taking steps for an orderly shutdown of the rail system, although NJT said that the steps would be 'largely invislbe' to the public. Despite early optimism that a settlement might be forthcoming by Thursday, talks adjourned without any resolution, according to reporting by Larry Higgs for  WNYC Radio reported that the talks ended on a "sour note," after NJ Transit apparently sent a notice to the employees to the effect that health care benefits would be suspended in case of a strike; NJT said such a notice was required by federal law. Union spokesperson Steve Burkert said "We object to NJT's conduct in this matter while the parties are fully engaged in the negotiation process."   Reporting by Andy Newman and Emma G. Fitzsimmons in the New York Times (March 10) covered employers' arrangements in case of a strike: altered work hours and locations, work-at-home, and even emergency sleepover rooms. The negotiating teams will return to the table at 10 a.m. on Friday. Union spokesperson  Burkert had earlier said that a strike on Sunday, after the federally-mandated cooling-off period expires, is not mandatory. A management lockout is also possible, but NJT interim executive director Dennis Martin has said that NJT does not plan to lock out its employees.  A main sticking point in the negotiations has been how much employees will pay for their health insurance; the union wants to limit employee contributions to 2.5% of the total premiums, which is said to be typical at other commuter railroads; NJT wants the workers to pay 10-20% of the premiums.

The impact of a strike, which could start on Sunday, could be severe. The Partnership for New York, a business group, estimated that every hour employees are delayed getting to work would cost $5.9 million, saying "A transit strike is among the most expensive events that can happen to New York City."  Transportation consultant Sam Schwartz predicted traffic jams of up to 23 miles on highways leading to Manhattan.  NJ Transit itself predicted increased travel times of an hour or more in the alternate transportation schemes it has arranged, involving park-and-ride with buses to ferries or the PATH transit system, which would continue to operate, and even the alternate schemes would only handle a fraction of the regular passenger load; the alternatives are only for peak hour commuters. Some local communities announced their own alternative bus services to Manhattan for stranded commuters, including Morristown and Morris Township; each will charge $25, cash only, and buses will leave when full, starting at 5 a.m. at the Morristown station and 6 a.m. at Convent Station.  The service at Convent Station requires that riders hold a monthly parking pass at that station.  Metro-North Railroad service west of Suffern will also be suspended in the case of a strike; Metro-North announced that bus service for their riders will operate from Harriman and Middletown.