By Philip Newman
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said the federal Department of Transportation has agreed to provide $432 million for repairs to the East River tunnels heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy despite a federal court decision posing possible delays in the project.
Schumer said a delay in repairs to the tunnel would have been “unacceptable, even dangerous and would have given hundreds of thousands of LIRR and other commuters a giant headache.”
The senator said a recent U.S. District Court decision to stall Amtrak’s $550 million in Sandy-related insurance payouts had put the much-needed repairs in limbo, which Schumer said spurred him to push for federal action.
“The U.S. Department of Transportation and Secretary Foxx have rightfully heeded the call and will inject $432 million into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for critical projects like the Long Island Rail Road tunnel project—and this not a moment too soon,” said Schumer.
“This news is a godsend for the hundreds of thousands of Long Island commuters who rely on the service to earn a living, shop, visit loved ones and more.”
Last August, upon learning of the projected cash crisis caused by an insurance shortfall, Schumer began working personally with the U.S. DOT, the FTA and FEMA to secure the release of the necessary Sandy-related funds to the MTA to cover the shortfall in money.
Superstorm Sandy, which struck in 2012, badly damaged the East River tunnels with an estimated 14 million gallons of floodwaters and Amtrak reported that corrosive salts and chlorides from the storm are still affecting the structures of the tunnels. Delays in LIRR service caused by the storm damage are still going on with 1,458 incidents last year alone.
Schumer said the East River tunnels are a critical part of the transit system in the New York City metropolitan area and now carry around 300,000 persons daily. Although owned by Amtrak, the tunnels are a shared regional asset providing invaluable service to the railroad and major transit agencies.
He said a decision by a U.S. district judge “to low ball Amtrak’s Sandy-related insurance settlement posed the possibility of late repairs to East River tunnels and, in turn, even a delay in the East Side Access project to bring Long Island Rail Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal.