Schumer, Lautenberg, Lahood Announce Critical First Step Towards Building Rail Tunnel Under The Hudson


lahoodSenator Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday announced that the Department of Transportation has begun the process of fulfilling Amtrak’s request for $185 million in Hurricane Sandy Relief funding. The funding will help pave the way for two desperately-needed, flood-resistant tunnels under the Hudson River, between New York and New Jersey. The officials said that, once the funding is finalized, it will help preserve space in the only gateway into Manhattan’s Penn Station – the Hudson Yards – which was about to be lost.

The funds will go towards an 800-foot long concrete casement (also known as a “tunnel box”) between 10th and 11th avenues in the Hudson Yards that will forever preserve the right-of-way for two new flood-resistant tunnels into Manhattan’s Penn Station. The new concrete casement will simultaneously be built underneath the Hudson Yards Development project currently being constructed by Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group. Without the steps announced today, the construction of the project could have proceeded without the casing, and the opportunity to build these new tunnels serving Penn Station’s existing tracks would have been potentially lost forever.

“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. 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, making our rail infrastructure more efficient and much more flood resistant from storms like Sandy,” said Schumer. “Today’s announcement is the first step of a long-term mitigation investment in New York. I am pleased that Secretary LaHood will award this much-needed funding to preserve a path for new train tunnels into Manhattan.”

“The Gateway Tunnel is the most important transportation project in our region, and this federal funding clears a hurdle that threatened the possibility of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. Gateway will create thousands of jobs, drive economic growth, and help us meet the urgent needs of a growing population that demands more, reliable rail options,” said Senator Lautenberg. “Superstorm Sandy showed us firsthand why our transportation systems must be able to withstand flooding and natural disasters, and the Gateway Tunnel will be an important part of making our region more resilient. We’ll keep working hard to invest in transit so that the people and economies of New Jersey and New York remain inextricably linked.”

“Hurricane Sandy exposed the risks of relying solely on a system of century-old tunnels for rail access into New York City,” said US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We were fortunate that these tunnels were not destroyed during the hurricane, and providing Amtrak with funds to preserve its ability to build a second tunnel, will provide much-needed resiliency to the Northeast Corridor in case of future disasters.”

“I am very pleased that USDOT will use Sandy mitigation funds to start construction to allow for future flood-resistant tunnels into Manhattan,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “This right-of-way is the only viable alignment for the Gateway tunnel to Manhattan that will allow future rail expansion under the Hudson River and Penn Station, and make possible high speed rail developments in the corridor.”

Of all the possible improvements that the federal government can make to improve reliability, increase capacity, and provide greater Northeast Corridor resilience and redundancy in the face of future disasters and homeland security planning, building two new tunnels to move trains in and out of Penn Station under the Hudson River is the most important. Beginning design and construction on elements of Amtrak’s Gateway Program that can start right away will advance this critical project so that the profound economic and preparedness benefits it offers to the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region and the entire Northeast Corridor can be realized sooner.

Damage to the NEC during Superstorm Sandy was significant and, in some places, unprecedented. The storm surge flooded four of six 103 year old tunnels under the Hudson and East Rivers, for the first time in their history. Both Hudson River Tunnels that serve points south of New York, all the way to Washington, Miami and New Orleans were flooded with 3.25 million gallons of brackish water. The flooding of these tunnels halted all Amtrak Northeast Corridor (NEC) and NJ Transit service into Manhattan for roughly 5 days, impacting nearly 600,000 daily riders and causing significant economic disruption. The Long Island Rail Road also suffered a significant loss of capacity and service due to the flooding of two of Amtrak’s East River Tunnels.

In addition to the lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, the Gateway Program has taken on increased urgency in recent months as engineers have determined the only viable route to connect the Gateway Tunnels directly to Penn Station New York will intersect the Hudson Yards, where Related/Oxford has commenced construction on a multi-billion dollar, mixed-use commercial and residential development project. Related/Oxford and the Long Island Rail Road, which owns the maintenance yards and facility also impacted by the development project and tunnel, have been willing and diligent partners in this national transportation priority and homeland security project and are working with Amtrak to design and begin construction on an 800-foot concrete casement to preserve future right of way for the Gateway Tunnels through the site in FY2013.

The Northeast Corridor is at or near capacity at many locations, but nowhere is the demand greater than in Penn Station, New York. When one or both of these tunnels need to be taken out of service – such as in the wake of Hurricane Sandy or a homeland security event – the region loses a vital economic artery and evacuation route. The two existing, 103-year-old rail tunnels into midtown Manhattan create a severe bottleneck as the only intercity and commuter rail crossing into New York City from New Jersey and were shown to be vulnerable to sea water immersion from storm surges and infiltration.

The new structure is an 800-foot concrete casement and will serve to protect the potential right-of-way for Gateway’s access to Penn Station. On May 22nd, Amtrak’s board authorized entering into agreements for the construction of the project and other associated activities with Related/Oxford and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) upon securing the necessary federal funding for this project.

{Andy Newscenter}