NJ: NJ Transit is on the hook for $88M to help rehab 2 East River tunnels. This is why.

May 14, 2024
NJ Transit’s board of directors approved an agreement on May 8 to fund $88.4 million of the work on the two of the East River Tunnels.

All the public attention may be going to the massive $16 billion Gateway Tunnel project. But, there is another joint tunnel project involving NJ Transit, Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road to rehabilitate another set of 114-year old tunnels.

Similar to the 114-year old Hudson River tunnels, two of the four East River tunnels were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and need to be rehabilitated and upgraded.

NJ Transit’s board of directors approved an agreement on May 8 to fund $88.4 million of the work on the two of the East River Tunnels. NJ Transit uses them to travel between New York Penn Station and Sunnyside Yard in Queens where they are stored between the morning and evening commuting rush.

The Project

The tunnel rehabilitation project is estimated to cost $1.6 billion and work is scheduled to start later this year with a 2027 completion date, said Jason Abrams, an Amtrak spokesperson.

“Some preparatory work is already underway in Sunnyside Yard, and we will be announcing the award of a construction contract shortly,” he said.

Those tunnels serve 453 trains per day, including 42 Amtrak intercity trains and 411 LIRR commuter trains. That total doesn’t include NJ Transit trains that use the tunnels to access Sunnyside Yard.

The Cost

The project is being funded by Amtrak, the MTA, which runs the Long Island Rail Road, NJ Transit and federal grants.

The MTA committed up to $432 million for the project and a Federal Railroad Administration federal-state partnership grant awarded in 2021 provided $10.68 million. In November 2023, Amtrak received a second FSP grant totaling upwards of $1.26 billion for the project, Abrams said.

NJ Transit’s share used a process determined by the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act and Northeast Corridor Cost Allocation policy.

“The NJT funds for this project are in addition to the annual PRIIA NEC funding obligations that NJT pays to Amtrak,” said Jim Smith, an NJ Transit spokesperson.

The Work

The East River Tunnel project is similar to the rehabilitation work that will be done to the two existing Hudson River Tunnels once the two new Gateway Tunnels are finished. One East River Tunnel at a time will be rehabilitated.

That work includes repairing the tunnel liner, replacing the old track of rails attached to wooden ties, resting on stone ballast with a modern system where rails and anchored in concrete, according to Amtrak.

Signals, overhead and third rails that supply power to trains will be replaced along with drainage to fight flooding.

Concrete bench walls between the track and tunnel walls will be rebuilt and new fire and smoke detection systems will be installed.

Additional work also will be performed at aboveground areas in Queens, including upgrades to the tunnel approaches and installing new signal houses and signal and traction power cables. Additional work will be performed at two ventilation facilities in Manhattan and Queens.

The project is expected to provide another 100 years of service life to the tunnels, that were originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.

Larry Higgs may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on X @CommutingLarry

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit nj.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.