With Hurricane Harvey barely in the rearview mirror and Hurricane Irma hurtling toward Florida, NJ Transit voted Thursday to spend $185 million on a Middlesex County property in which to safely park its trains in the event of catastrophic storms threatening the region.
“We need to relocate in the event of a projected storm event similar to Sandy,” NJ Transit executive director Steve Santoro said. During Superstorm Sandy in 2012, NJ Transit parked more than 300 train cars at the Meadowlands Maintenance Complex; the complex was inundated by Sandy’s storm surge and the train cars were ruined.
But the new train storage site has its own problems, according to critics. “It’s actually in a flood plain. They need something like 22,000 truckloads of fill to raise it up out of the flood plain,” said Joe Clift, former director of planning for the Long Island Railroad. (The new property includes 25 acres and a freight line called the Delco Lead in New Brunswick and North Brunswick.)
Steve Thorpe, vice chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, said that NJ Transit already has plenty of available track for storm storage located above flood-prone regions. “Morris and Essex line, third track between Millburn and Newark and also the Raritan Valley line … and other places if they shut the system down, that are high and out of the way, that are protected where they can keep equipment,” he said.
Instead of tying up so much money on the storage facility, transportation advocates want NJ Transit to focus its spending differently. “We need another tunnel into New York,” Thorpe said. “And throwing money at a project like that, while it does have some merit, doesn’t rise to the level of what a tunnel does. The only real benefits to this Delco Lead will be to the developers, building this North Brunswick station.”
The Federal Transit Administration has awarded a grant for almost half of the $368 million price of the storage facility, which is expected to open in 2021.
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