Amtrak to re-open NYC tunnels damaged by Sandy

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor
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Amtrak intends to re-open three tunnels that provide access to/from Penn Station New York (PSNY) by late Friday, Nov. 9, which were significantly flooded and damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

All Amtrak PSNY tunnels will then be in operation and will allow expanded Amtrak and commuter rail service north, south and west of New York City. Individual tunnels are expected to open at various times during the next three days.

“The return of all tunnel access to New York City will be a major milestone in the continued restoration of Amtrak and commuter rail service and for the larger recovery efforts of the Northeast region,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman.

Two of the tunnels (known as Line 1 and Line 2) that will re-open are located under the East River and will support more Northeast Corridor service north of New York and Empire Service and other trains that operate to/from Albany and further west. When the two tunnels open, each will operate at 80 percent capacity, or at a peak level of about 32 trains per hour, as repairs continue. Two other East River tunnels did not flood and are operating at 100 percent capacity, or at a peak level of about 40 trains per hour.

The other tunnel (known as the North Tube) to re-open is located under the Hudson River and will allow expanded Amtrak and New Jersey Transit commuter rail service south of New York. In combination with the South Tube, which re-opened on Oct. 31, the two Hudson River tunnels will operate at about 63 percent capacity, or a peak of about 24 trains per hour, which doubles the capacity of a peak of 12 per hour today. A normal peak is about 38 trains per hour.

The ability to further increase capacity through the Hudson River tunnels is currently limited by significant flooding damage at a key electrical substation located near Kearney, N.J. On Nov. 6, with the assistance of the Army Corps of Engineers, Amtrak brought the flooding under control and de-watered the facility. The equipment is now being cleaned and will be tested to determine the damage, the next course of action and estimated time for repair. Amtrak is able to bypass this substation, but because the power used for this section of track now has to supply a longer distance, the number of trains allowed to take power in the longer supply section is to be restricted in order to protect the catenary wires from overheating or tripping the supply breakers on overload until the substation is back on line for full restoration of service.

The Hurricane Sandy storm surge flooded four of six 102-year-old tunnels under the

Hudson and East Rivers for the first time in their history. In particular, signal and electrical systems in three of the four flooded tunnels were severely damaged by the salt water. Amtrak crews have designed a bypass for the signal system to allow the tunnels to re-open and provide safe operations, but more repairs are needed.

Categories: Commuter/Regional, Intercity