Monday, October 29, 2012

East Coast braces for Sandy's impact

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MTA New York City Transit preparations for Hurricane Sandy at the Lenox Terminal at 148th Street. Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins MTA New York City Transit preparations for Hurricane Sandy at the Lenox Terminal at 148th Street. Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins

Frankenstorm, super storm, perfect storm, call it what you will, Hurricane Sandy has launched East Coast passenger and freight rail operations into a flurry of activity to prepare for the approaching wind and rain associated with the Category 1 tempest.

Passenger service has been suspended Monday on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, as well as transit and commuter service including New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), Metro-North Railroad, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Maryland Transit Administration. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will suspend service as of 2 p.m. Monday.

On the freight side of the industry, Norfolk Southern posted a notice on its website advising customers that traffic from Virginia through New England could be delayed at least 72 hours due to the possible impacts of heavy rains, flooding and high winds. CSX is also anticipating a 72-hour service disruption and has closed its network from Richmond, Va., north to Albany, N.Y. The closure includes Boston, Mass., and extends as far west as Brunswick, Md.

In the New York area, LIRR and Metro-North crews were busy securing railroad crossing gates system-wide from high winds. According to a statement from LIRR, the commuter railroad has 690 crossing gates at 295 grade crossings system-wide. Metro-North moved equipment away from flood-prone areas and New York's MTA removed critical track-level components from under river tubes so that, if flooding occurs, they will not suffer from the corrosive effects of salt water. Prior to high wind conditions, New York MTA workers will visit elevated stations to make certain everything is secure and not subject to wind damage.

All passenger service providers cited safety of customers and employees for the shutdown. Suspending service will also give service providers a chance to protect their infrastructure, move equipment to secure locations and quickly assess damage once the storm has passed.

At least one passenger railroad, VIA Rail Canada, attempted to keep an upbeat attitude about impending weather, posting a notice on its website that read, "Hurricane Sandy Alert - All trains operating as per their regular schedules with minor delays. Another good reason to take the train!"

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