The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority also heeded the call for help and after the storm sent 30 buses to assist in New Jersey for a bus shuttle operation after the storm. Ron Hopkins, assistant general manager of operations said SEPTA uses 1,200 of its 1,400 bus fleet on a daily basis during peak hours, so they took the buses from several locations and sent them to help. He said SEPTA also made sure to send recently inspected buses to make sure NJ Transit had the best to use after the storm.
“The only damage we heard of was primarily associated with trees falling into wires. We didn’t have any vehicle damage or any major infrastructure damage that we had to go out and spend significant amounts of money on,” Hopkins said. “There were no washouts and we really didn’t get as much rain as the other states, but the heavy winds brought down some trees, so we were up and running the following day.”
SEPTA is also lending a hand to PATH in recovery efforts by helping do repairs on damaged equipment on that system. PATH has sent 25 air controlled valves damaged by the storm to SEPTA for repairs. The agency has also been offering repair services to other agencies devastated by Sandy.
And the SEPTA Transport Workers Union Local 234 helped their brethren in the TWU Local 100 in New York by collecting cleaning supplies, such as bleach, masks, Tyvek suits, shovels, gloves, brooms, bags and industrial cleaners so they would be able to clean their own homes damaged in the storm.
New Jersey has been doing engine repairs at a short line maintenance facility outside of Morristown and has been working with MTA to procure a yard adjacent to that system’s Sunnyside Yard in Queens to use as a temporary area to work on equipment.
“You’re talking about an effort that’s going to take perhaps more than a year to fully recover from,” Weinstein said. “None of the equipment was irretrievably destroyed, it can all be repaired and we plan to repair it, but it’s going to take time because not only do you have that stuff to repair, but you also need to be running the system and conducting inspections on equipment.”
Transit vendors and contractors are also helping out in the recovery process, such as Ansaldo STS, which in a company statement said it is working with customers in the region to regain full operation as quickly as possible. Ansaldo employees are taking part in daily meetings to plan and enforce expedition of materials to customers and pursuing all avenues to speed up the recovery process.
“The products being replaced range from new, microprocessor-based train control equipment, to mechanical and pneumatic train stops and valves that have been in use for over 50 years,” the company statement reads. “The diversity and quantity of the products damaged make their fast replacement a complex effort, but Ansaldo STS is dedicated to supporting its customers in this time of need.”
Hardening the systems
While transit workers are busy getting the systems back to pre-Sandy operational capacity, leaders and engineers are looking ahead to a future where systems area more resilient to this type of devastation.
“That has been the charge of the two governors to build it better and we’re building it better wherever we can and taking the necessary steps to prevent this type of damage,” Kingsberry said. “The one thing we really noticed is this really was a 100-year storm with a surge of over 14 feet high.
“We’ve been around 60 years and it has never happened before and we’re hoping it’s the worst possible and that it can’t get any worse.”
PATH uses buildings and tunnels more than 100 years old, so Kingerberry said the system is making updates to waterproof buildings, put pumps into rooms that flooded to make sure water can get pumped out if it ever comes in and at one Keysan that flooded a watertight submarine door is being installed to keep future flood waters out of the room and protect equipment.
The cost of replacing equipment and getting service back for the Metro-North Railroad will cost $200 million, Permut said, but the long-term fixes to strengthen the system are estimated at more than $1 billion.
“Beyond that it’s a regional issue about storm barriers and surge barriers,” Permut said. “This isn’t just a transit issue. It’s a broader issue for the whole region.”
For the Long Island Railroad, finding higher ground may be the solution to protect itself from future storms, including more ways to protect Penn Station and better ways to protect the Westside Yard from future flooding.