Superstorm Sandy significantly impacted New Jersey’s public transit systems. Commuter rail service was disrupted for months in what has been described by the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force as “the worst disaster for public transit systems (e.g., bus, subway, commuter rail) in the nation’s history.”
NJ TRANSIT quickly implemented emergency repairs to restore service. Significant restoration of and repair of communication and signal systems, substations and catenary wires, and other key assets were necessary to restore rail service. Restoration and repair were also required on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and Newark City Subway systems. Immediate post-storm efforts were also focused on the repair of assets that would restore customer amenities and stations. The process of repairing passenger cars damaged by inundation and restoring the main waiting room, vendor spaces, restrooms and heating and cooling systems at the Hoboken Terminal were prime examples of our initial recovery priorities.
In addition to emergency repair efforts, NJ TRANSIT began the long-term design process to repair or replace damaged substations and other assets and equipment. These projects, substantial in nature, require significant pre-construction design work and are often complicated by the need to sustain continued operations during construction and commissioning. NJ TRANSIT retained leading engineering, environmental consulting, architectural, and construction management firms to advise the agency on the long-term recovery effort and to prepare projects for construction.
Sandy’s impact on the system revealed important vulnerabilities that are now resiliency opportunities. NJ TRANSIT is integrating resilience into new project designs – raising critical assets above flood risk, using materials that can withstand storm surge, and incorporating innovation and best practices into the long-term recovery process. Moving forward, the hardening of NJ TRANSIT assets to allow the to system better withstand, and recover from, future extreme weather events and other forward-looking hazards is a central element of our post-Sandy resiliency program. Below are some examples of these efforts.
Substations are essential to supplying electric power to the catenary, yard and equipment facilities’ systems. Because of storm surge during Superstorm Sandy, the electric components of substations were particularly vulnerable to the corrosive effects of salt water. Repairing and returning to service impacted substations and related electrical distribution systems were central to the full restoration of operations. As most of these substations are only a modest distance above the ground, a significant focus of our efforts is to elevate them sufficiently to reduce the impact of future storms and flooding. Work is being undertaken to advance final engineering for new substations across NJ TRANSIT’s system.
Hoboken Terminal is the second largest transportation facility operated by NJ TRANSIT. It is a major transfer point for rail, bus, light rail and ferry service and is central to the Manhattan-bound work commute. In addition, it is a nationally recognized historic site. The building, yard and its transit, communications, security and passenger convenience infrastructure suffered pervasive and systemic damage from the storm. Its rapid restoration to full service was integral to the vitality of the state’s public transit system. NJ TRANSIT studied ways to harden the various buildings and functions at this complex and is implementing repairs in a resilient manner.
Hoboken Ferries: The restoration of ferry service from Hoboken Terminal has provided another important alternative for cross-Hudson commuters. The ferry slips, ticket offices, crew quarters and other amenities were recently renovated in a multi-million dollar capital program. Storm surge and subsequent flooding significantly damaged the ferry infrastructure and caused the suspension of operations. This infrastructure is being repaired in a resilient manner.
Meadows Maintenance Complex, Rail Operations Center
Meadows Maintenance Complex (MMC): A major NJ TRANSIT facility for rail vehicle maintenance and parts storage, the MMC suffered a degree of water damage, in particular to spare parts, equipment lift tables, and the Wheel-True machine. The protection of materials storage and electrical and mechanical systems, which are sensitive to water, is underway.
Rail Operations Center (ROC): The ROC is the central nervous system of the entire rail network, controlling dispatching, track signals and other critical commuter rail functions, and must stay in service for the railroad to operate. Water damaged the ROC’s Uninterruptable Power Supply, preventing NJ TRANSIT from dispatching trains. The UPS needs to be raised above foreseeable flood levels. Power upgrades and other improvements are underway to make the facility more resilient to the effects of storm surge.
Weehawken Ferry Terminal
Weehawken Ferry Terminal: This major facility was opened in 2006 and provides an important connection between the nearby Hudson Bergen Light Rail line and cross-Hudson ferries. The facility was impacted by tidal surge. The dredging and clearing of its slips were completed in order to restore operations.
Newark Light Rail, Rail Stations
Newark Light Rail (NLR): The NLR system serves downtown Newark as well as surrounding suburbs. It also links the city’s two rail stations: Broad Street and Penn Station. Significant flooding incapacitated NLR’s signal, communications, emergency ventilation and power systems. Repairs in a resilient manner are underway.
Rail Stations: The impact of the storm on several rail stations located on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), Raritan Valley (RVL), Main/Bergen (M/B), Morris and Essex (M&E), and Montclair Boonton (MB) Lines included damaged structures, platforms, parking lots and roofing. The Secaucus Junction station, a major transfer point for northern New Jersey rail service, suffered water damage to elevators, power systems and access roadways. NJ TRANSIT completed substantial repairs at rail stations and other facilities system-wide.
Hudson Bergen Light Rail
Hudson Bergen Light Rail (HBLR): With more than 40,000 daily riders, the HBLR system is a primary mode of transportation between Hudson River waterfront communities and a connection to Hoboken Terminal, ferry terminals and cross-river PATH trains. Wind and water damage impacted HBLR’s track, signal, communications and power systems. NJ TRANSIT is replacing cable, effecting repairs to facilities, and addressing other damage in a resilient manner.
Gladstone Catenary Pole Resiliency
Gladstone Branch: A section of the Morris & Essex Line that operates between Peapack and Hoboken, the Gladstone Branch has wooden poles to support the overhead electrified power line, called catenary wires. The right-of-way suffered significant wind damage resulting in structural failure of several of these poles. The catenary poles are being replaced with steel structures to ensure this line is not subject to future issues due to snapped poles caused by wind and falling trees.