NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Almost two years after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, $183.5 million in federal funding has been allocated to create a safer place to protect the state's fleet of passenger trains during severe weather events.
Following Sandy, NJ Transit came under fire for its slapdash preparation of the storm. Trains were left in low-lying areas, such in the 72-acre Meadowlands Maintanence Complex and the Hoboken rail yard.
A grand total of 342 NJTransit vehicles were damaged, causing $120 million in damage. By comparison, New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority only saw damage to 11 of its railroad cars.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, NJTransit (NJT) had to borrow railroad cars from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and NJT still has not repaired all of the damaged vehicles.
The $183.5 million project, known as the Delco Lead Safe Haven Storage and Re-Inspection Facility Project, would expand the "County Yard," located next to the Jersey Avenue Railroad Station in New Brunswick, and connect it will the abandoned Mile Run Yard.
Currently, the Jersey Avenue location can accomodate 132 rail cars, though after the expansion, this number would increase to 150 electrified rial cars, as well as 260 passenger rail cars.
Currently, the new yard is at the third stage of eight in the construction process, "start preliminary design."
When finished, the new train yard would serve as the state's primary train storage facility. In the mean time, NJT had designated rail yards in Linden and Garwood as safe havens in the event of similar weather.
The Bergen Record, in conjunction with WNYC, had pressed NJT to release more details on its preparation for Hurricane Sandy.
The two news organizations asked questions about whether the transportation agency had identified portions of its rail network that were at risk for flooding, whether rail crews were on-duty to help prepare the statewide facilities for the storm, and whether NJ Transit police officers had any sort of training in reading weather forecast data.
Despite extensive efforts of The Record and WNYC, NJT denied most of their requests, citing security concerns.
“Recent events including the uncovering of an al-Qaida-led terrorist plot targeting rail service reinforces why NJ Transit will not disclose sensitive information that could potentially undermine the security of our transit infrastructure, our customers or our employees,” John Durso Jr, a spokesperson for NJ Transit, told The Record in an email.
During an Assembly hearing, James Weinstein, director of NJ Transit, told legislators that their decisions "on where to keep our locomotives were sound, based on all the information we had at the time we had to make that decision."
As we reported, Weinstein resigned shortly after the agency was criticized for its performance during February's Super Bowl at the Meadowlands.
New Jersey Transit will receive approximately $630 million in total aid for two projects in Middlesex County, as part of $1.5 billion being awarded to NJT and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The two agencies filed 11 applications for financial aid to the Federal Transit Administration, as part of its Hurricane Sandy Resiliency Program.
The remaining $446.3 million in NJT funding will be allocated towards the Raritan Drawbridge Replacement Project, which spans the Raritan River between South Amboy and Perth Amboy.
The 106-year-old drawbridge carries NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast line. Before Hurricane Sandy, trains using the drawbridge would have to slow down to 10 mph, due to the condition of the bridge.
Nancy Snyder, a spokesperson for NJ Transit, told The Star-Ledger that during the storm, the bridge was struck by two tugboats which broke free of their moorings.