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LaHood, two senators announce key step toward rail tunnel construction under Hudson River

The U.S. Department of Transportation has begun the process of meeting Amtrak's request for $185 million in Hurricane Sandy relief to help pave the way for two flood-resistant tunnels under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced yesterday.

Once the funding is finalized, it will be used to help preserve space in the only gateway into Manhattan's Penn Station — the Hudson Yards, they said in a joint press release.

During Hurricane Sandy, the 103-year-old Hudson River tunnels flooded for the first time, resulting in a Northeast Corridor shut down. The situation highlighted the "urgent need" for flood-resistant infrastructure, the senators and LaHood said.

The funds will be used to construct an 800-foot-long concrete casement, known as a "tunnel box," between the 10th and 11th avenues in Hudson Yards to preserve the the right of way for two new flood-resistant tunnels into Penn Station. The tunnel box will be built simultaneously under the Hudson Yards Development Project, which is under construction by Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group.

According to engineers, the only option for additional rail access to Manhattan and Penn Station is under Hudson Yards, so the infrastructure needs to be built before construction begins, the senators and LaHood said. Without the steps announced yesterday, the opportunity to build the tunnels to serve Penn Station would have been lost, they said.

"When Sandy flooded our tunnels it exposed a fatal flaw in our already maxed-out transit infrastructure and demonstrated beyond a doubt we needed a new flood-resistant train-tunnel into and out of Manhattan," said Schumer. "This project will build the gate in the 'Gateway' tunnel and secures the future of rail for New York City and all of the Northeast Corridor."

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More News from 5/31/2013