PANYNJ authorizes $50 million to clean salt from rail tunnels

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor

Lingering latent salt residue left by Superstorm Sandy's extensive flooding inside the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's (PANYNJ) Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. (PATH) rail tunnels will be removed, with corroded cables, track and other equipment replaced, under a $50-million project authorization approved by PATH's Board of Commissioners.


PANYNJ conducted extensive PATH restoration efforts in the months after the system suffered unprecedented damage in its tunnels last fall. Millions of gallons of salt water flooded the system for nearly a week before massive pumping efforts successfully cleared the tubes.

Restoration work included replacement of ruined cables, switches and the flushing of the tunnels, tracks and equipment. Despite the ongoing work, however, PATH has seen an uptick in Sandy-related maintenance and service issues this year, due to the corrosive effects of lingering salt residue left behind from the storm. New efforts will include intensive power washing with solvents throughout the system, including the cast iron rings that comprise the original PATH tubes, along with replacement of damaged equipment.

Up to 90 percent of the costs are expected to be reimbursed from $1.3 billion in recovery funding already awarded to PATH by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Work will start in November on selected weekends and evenings, a timeframe designed to minimize the impact on travelers.

“Simply put, salt water does not mix well with metal, mechanical and electrical equipment and power cables,” said PANYNJ Chairman David Samson. “PATH employees made Herculean efforts to get the system up and running after the storm, but the residual salt left behind is a major obstacle to overcome in returning PATH to full health and reliability following Sandy’s devastation.”

In addition to removing the latent salt and neutralizing any residue, the work also will include repair or replacement of any compromised power and communication cables, running rail, third rail or trackside equipment.

Contractors will be chosen via a competitive, qualification-based process, with contracts meeting FTA guidelines to help ensure maximum federal reimbursement.

Improved measures to help prevent damage from future storms include the use of metal panels at PATH stations, temporary concrete barriers and water-filled Jersey barriers to protect doorways in buildings and the installation of permanent and mobile pumps, as well as the addition of generators at various facilities to ensure storm waters can be quickly pumped away. The agency’s preparations also include moving electrical and mechanical equipment to higher ground where feasible, increased use of water resistant materials to help prevent leaks and installation of barriers or perimeter walls where practical to further reduce potential flooding.


Categories: Commuter/Regional, OFF Track Maintenance