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By Pat Foran, Editor
Four months after Superstorm Sandy slugged the Northeast, full service has been restored on nearly all passenger-rail lines and stations in the New York/New Jersey region. But the recovery, post-Sandy, is far from over, as Associate Editor Angela Cotey reports in this month's cover story. Infrastructure needs to be reinforced so that transit systems can withstand severe weather. Sandy underscored the need to invest, big time, in storm-resiliency efforts. Simply funding recoveries won't cut it. As New Jersey Transit Executive Director James Weinstein put it to Cotey: "We just can't go back to the way it was."
Where can we go? What are our options? The questions could languish in the rhetorical bin if you're hoping for an answer that includes carving out more federal funds for the aforementioned resiliency. But transit officials in New York and New Jersey are trying to look (and plan) ahead, knowing that what they're looking at and planning for will be extremely expensive. Given what they've had to weather in recent years, and what some believe they'll continue to weather, transit leaders say they have no choice.
Might federal lawmakers be starting to think along similar lines, or at least entertain such a line of thinking, post-Sandy? MTA New York City Transit President Thomas Prendergast told Cotey that he believes the recognition of the need to set aside "large expenditures to harden a system is sinking in."
However tilted in the direction of hope as it may be, Prendergast's assessment probably is as good as any, even in these polarized, paralyzed, sequestrationized times: At some point, something's gotta give. Especially when it comes to protecting what arguably is the most important passenger-rail infrastructure in the country.
I will be looking and listening for any evidence of said "sinking in" at Railroad Day on Capitol Hill on March 14, the freight-rail industry's annual trek to D.C. to deliver the rail message to U.S. senators and congressfolk. There won't be much surface talk about transit system resiliency at this event, but we might get a read on the rhetoric levels or at least some kind of polarization pulse check, both of which could suggest transit's chances of delivering its message on The Hill. Railroad Day will have passed by the time most of you read these words, but I'll be sharing what I see and hear from lawmakers' offices — be it in these pages, on our web site or through social media channels.
For more on resiliency: In an audio clip, Joshua Schank, president and chief executive officer of the Eno Center for Transportation, talks about how Hurricane Sandy underscored the need for storm-resiliency investments — and the need to prioritize them.