Amtrak to Repair East River Tunnels

According to an announcement by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Amtrak will use $86 million in Superstorm Sandy federal recovery funds to perform maintenance work on four East River tunnels used by Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road, and some NJ Transit trains enroute to or from Sunnyside Yard in Queens.  Several issues in the tunnels recently have delayed commuters, mainly Long Island Rail Road customers; problems have included broken rails.

Problems in the tunnels, owned by Amtrak, can have a severe impact on service because of the difficulty of removing derailed trains and of evacuating passengers.  Planned changes include replacing all of the old “jointed” rail segments, which are particularly prone to failure; improved track inspection; and a new, preemptive track maintenance and replacement program.  Sen. Schumer said he worked out the program following a September meeting with Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia.

 Reporting by the Associated Press (November 18); the Crain’s New York Business article is archived at A (subscribers only).

Hoboken Waiting Room Reopens

NJ Transit has reopened the historic waiting room at Hoboken Terminal; a visit on Monday, November 19 at 5 p.m. confirmed that the terminal has reopened.  The most recent reporting on the subject, just a few days ago, forecast the reopening before winter weather sets in; apparently, NJT has been able to beat those predictions.  The availability of the terminal, and its restrooms, has a checkered history following the flooding on October 29, 2012; the terminal had initially been reopened on November 18, 2012, a few weeks after the storm, but then mold was discovered and the terminal was closed again on December 19, 2012.  During the 2012-13 winter, riders had to rely on parked trains for heated waiting space and use nonflushable toilets.  In recent months, the terminal reopened but with the historic wooden benches still closed off, and temporary seating installed.  In the final stages of restoration, the terminal was again closed off, but restrooms were accessible through a side entrance facing Warrington Plaza at the north side of the building.  Some of the doors to the rail platform area remain out of service, as temporary ticket offices were built and block access to those doors.

NJT to Sandbag Critical Facilities

Exploring yet another technology to protect its Meadows Maintenance Facility rail yards in Kearny from possible flooding, NJ Transit has announced its latest effort: sandbags.  Not just any sandbags, these will be pentagon-shaped bags called “TrapBags,” sloped on angles to form a 6-foot-high protective dam around critical electrical facilities, according to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (Sept. 13).  The dam will protect electrical substations and generators; they are a temporary measure while the electrical equipment is raised above anticipated flood levels, which will take 2 to 3 years to complete.  The half-million-dollar sandbag project involves 3100 linear feet of bags and a reported 43,000 tons of sand.  Still, the announcement of the project was another reminder that 87 rail cars and 17 locomotives damaged by flooding in Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, remain out of service.  Other initiatives by NJT to protect its equipment from future flooding include establishment of track sidings and new yards at flood-proof locations.