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Friday, December 07, 2012    

Post-Hurricane Sandy: Amtrak requests $336 million in emergency funds; New Jersey Transit estimates damage at $400 million


Amtrak is requesting $336 million in emergency federal funding to help recoup losses related to last month's Hurricane Sandy, and shore up rail capacity and "resiliency" to better prevent damage and recover from future natural disasters, President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman told a Senate subcommittee yesterday.

The hurricane that struck the East Coast exposed "the fragility of century-old structures and the challenges that come when we're confronted with weather and conditions the designers never anticipated," Boardman said in prepared remarks before the Senate's Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure Safety and Security subcommittee.

Of the emergency fund request, $276 million would be used to enhance protection measures and improve the recovery capability of Penn Station and its tunnels against flooding or emergency disruptions, and begin design and construction of the capacity-increasing Gateway Program. The additional $60 million would go toward Amtrak's estimated operating losses incurred as a result of the storm, said Boardman.

He highlighted three projects to show how key investments would boost capacity and resiliency in the Northeast Corridor:

• The design of a high-density signaling system to provide better flexibility in the four East River Tunnels used by Amtrak and MTA Long Island Rail Road. Two of the four tunnels flooded and were extensively damaged and, although they reopened, have not yet returned to full service. If high-density signaling was installed, the two undamaged tunnels could today handle a heavier traffic load. The two North River Tunnels that Amtrak and New Jersey Transit use have a high-density signal system already in place.

• Rebuilding the Kearney, N.J., electrical substation, which supplies power to the North River Tunnels and Penn Station, atop a platform that would be above the high-water line and large enough so that more electrical capacity can be added to support future capacity moving in and out of New York. The substation, which was flooded and hampered service recovery due to its outage, since has been restored to full service.

• Advancing design and early construction portions of the Gateway Program, including two new Hudson River tunnels between New York and New Jersey. The two existing tunnels flooded during the hurricane, demonstrating how more tunnel capacity could have helped recover service more quickly, Boardman said.

Also at Thursday's hearing, New Jersey Transit Executive Director James Weinstein revealed that agency sustained about $400 million in damage from the storm.

"That breaks down roughly into a little more than $100 million for rail equipment, including rolling stock, and some $300 million to fix and repair track, wires, signaling, electrical substations and equipment, as well as to cover the costs of emergency supplemental bus and ferry service, and lost revenue," Weinstein said in prepared remarks.

The $400 million does not include the $800 million agency officials believe is necessary to "mitigate and harden the transit system to make it more resilient in the face of future storms like Sandy," he said.

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