Flood-Proof Yards Make Progress

After Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, NJ Transit belatedly realized that not all of its storage yards for rail equipment are storm-safe, after storm-surge waters flooded yards in Hoboken and the Jersey Meadows and damaged many cars and locomotives in the NJT fleet.  In response to the disaster, the railroad decided to invest in additional “storm-safe” facilities to store equipment, should another storm strike.  The railroad already has some of these facilities in place, according to NJT executive director James Weinstein, quoted in reporting by Larry Higgs in The Record (Sept. 6).  Facilities already ready for use include the Garwood industrial trackage on the Raritan Valley Line and Conrail yard facilities in Linden on the Northeast Corridor, now ready for emergency use.  Geotechnical studies were performed, according to Weinstein, to make sure that the new facilities would not be subject to flooding; NJT came under criticism after the Sandy storm for assuming that the Hoboken and Meadows yards would not flood, since they never had before.  Some forecasters had predicted that they would flood, but NJT relied on other, more optimistic predictions.  Additional storage will be provided by facilities still to be constructed in the New Brunswick and South Brunswick areas, also on the Northeast Corridor.  Meanwhile, repairs of equipment damaged in Sandy continue, with 229 rail cars and locomotives returned to service out of the 343 damaged in the storm.  According to Weinstein, 91% of the rail fleet is available for service:  “There is virtually no impact on service from equipment shortages,” Weinstein said.  Observers note, however, that a number of trains on the Morris &  Essex lines have not returned after the storm, leaving significant gaps in service, which NJT doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge.