NJ Congressional Delegation Wants More Federal Funds for Transit-System Repairs

Tom Johnson | February 10, 2016 | Transportation
Request to Department of Transportation indicates that NJ Transit needs almost $470 million to fix damage from Hurricane Sandy

sandy nj transit
In a bid to pry more aid from the federal government, New Jersey’s congressional delegation is asking to cover a gap in the funds needed to repair damage to transit equipment stemming from Hurricane Sandy.

In a letter to the acting administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the delegation noted that New Jersey Transit suffered a shortfall of $467 million in unmet needs, including $35 million in engineering and other reviews required to repair damage to rail tunnels under the Hudson River.

“These unmet needs encompass transit projects that are necessary for mobility, congestion relief, and quality of life throughout the state of New Jersey,’’ according to the letter from the delegation.

The plea comes in the wake of New Jersey last month coming up short for federal disaster-aid relief awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, winning just $15 million instead of the $311 million the state sought. Those funds are intended to help make communities more resilient to natural disasters, such as floods and storms.

The outcome led to an outcry after HUD officials blamed the small award on the state submitting a “weak application.’’ The Senate Oversight Committee is planning to hold a legislative hearing tomorrow in the State House to explore how New Jersey applies for such funding.

New Jersey already has received $342 million in emergency relief from the Federal Transit Administration. The total damage from the storm to transit infrastructure in the state totaled $809 million, which included damage to the rail tunnels between New Jersey and New York from saltwater flooding.

According to the delegation’s letter, other unmet needs include the repair of switch heaters and remote terminal units damaged by storm surge; restoration of key power systems in Hoboken and at the Meadows Maintenance Complex in Kearny; repair of latent damage to signal and communications cable, as well as to traction and station-power distribution infrastructure on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system. Also in need of repair: electrical and plumbing systems at Hoboken Terminal and damaged signal and control-cabling equipment on the Newark Light Rail system. Repair and replacement of a damaged drawbridge also needs to be addressed, the letter said.

“The repair of these assets is essential to ensuring the safe and reliable operation of transit services throughout the state,’’ the delegation argued.

To many New Jersey officials, the state has had a disappointing record in securing federal aid to recover from Sandy. As of last summer, New Jersey had received a total of $1.7 billion from FEMA, compared with $7.7 billion to New York. Both states suffered about $37 billion in damage from the storm.