With the immediate emergency repairs finished following Superstorm Sandy and temporary fixes in place, city and state agencies in New York and New Jersey are now focused on planning, funding and building long-term resiliency projects. The agencies include the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the U.S. National Park Service, whose infrastructure was severely damaged when the hurricane hit the tristate area nearly two years ago.
"The last six months have meant substantial cleanup and repair, leading to the rapid restoration of full service in all but the hardest-hit facilities," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement in May addressing MTA's Fix & Fortify program. "But the difficult work of rebuilding the system to be stronger, more robust and more resilient has just begun."
That is the case with most other agencies, including New Jersey-based PSE&G, whose $1.22-billion Energy Strong program was recently approved by the state Board of Public Utilities. The utility says it is ready to put longer-term solutions in place—but it will take some time.
"While none of these improvements will be in place for this year's hurricane season, we are pleased to put shovels in the ground and get started on this critical work so we are better prepared for the next storm season," said Ralph Izzo, PSE&G chairman and CEO.
Metropolitan Transportation Agency
Major Tunnel Work to Wrap Up Soon
The MTA says it is awaiting word on whether it will receive more federal funds for resiliency upgrades. While the FTA has already allocated $898 million for that work, MTA units submitted applications to the federal agency under a $3-billion resiliency program announced last December. The FTA plans to announce grants this fall.
"We cannot predict how much money we will receive," says Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman. The system suffered an estimated $4.76 billion in damage to its railroad and subway lines, vehicular tunnels, subway stations and power and signal equipment, which were flooded with saltwater.
Meanwhile, under MTA New York City Transit's Fix & Fortify program, initiated in May 2013, the agency's Sandy recovery and resiliency division is designing solutions to prevent flooding at more than 600 entry points in lower Manhattan and other vulnerable areas. "We are also analyzing all underground tube locations to ensure that critical points where water can enter the system are protected," Ortiz says.
NYC Transit is pursuing a multi-prong defense strategy that consists of ingress prevention, water exclusion, compartmentalization, water removal and ejection, asset protection, critical facilities protection and development of resilient systems and processes, he says.
Broken down even further, protection from storm surge flooding is focused on under–river tunnels that include Joralemon Street Tube, Montague Street Tube, Clark Street Tube, Cranberry Street Tube, Rutgers Street Tube, Canarsie Tube and Greenpoint Tube between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and 53rd Street Tube and Steinway Tube between Manhattan and Queens.
Work is also focused on yards, terminals and shops that include Tottenville and St. George terminals in Staten Island; the Stillwell terminal, Coney Island; Rockaway Park and 148th Street yards; Clifton shop in Brooklyn; and the 207th Street yard in Manhattan.
Rebuilding the Greenpoint and Montague tubes are two of the largest projects under the Fix & Fortify program, Ortiz says.
The roughly $305-million Montague project involves the upgrade of all right-of-way components in the link that connects downtown Brooklyn with lower Manhattan. This includes tracks, tunnel lighting, circuit breaker houses, power substations, pump rooms, fan plants, power cables and ducts, as well as the replacement of damaged signal components. Repair of the Montague tubes, which began in August 2013, is on schedule for completion in October, Ortiz says.
The $66-million Greenpoint Tube project, which began in July 2013, entails the replacement of thousands of feet of tunnel components—including tracks, track support components, the tunnel lighting system, power equipment and the tube's signaling system. The tube, which is bounded by the 21st Street station in Manhattan and the Greenpoint Avenue station in Brooklyn, is also undergoing replacement of 1,200 linear ft of rails, plates and tie blocks. The tube is in the middle of a five-week shutdown and is set to reopen after Labor Day.
The agency's third-largest tube project is the Steinway Tube, estimated to cost $33 million. In February, NYC Transit began work to bring the 120-year-old tube back to a state of good repair. Work this year will include demolishing and reconstructing collapsed duct as well as rehabilitating the tube's pump room and discharge lines, Ortiz says.
MTA also is addressing storm-surge flooding in subway tunnel segments containing stations and fan plants. These include the South Ferry, Bowling Green, Rector Street, Broad Street and Whitehall Street stations in Manhattan, as well as various fan plants.
The South Ferry station was devastated and will need years of renovation work. "Any day now" the agency is set to award a contract for its upgrade, Ortiz says. "Vulnerable areas in our subway stations include stairways, elevators, vents, manholes and hatches." Whenever possible, the agency is pursuing permanent solutions that will withstand up to a Category 2 storm, he adds.
"For each vulnerable point, existing or emerging technologies are being researched, tested and employed to effectively protect the transit system and prevent future flooding," he says. "These solutions are being implemented as rapidly as possible using methods which are achievable with current operating forces."
NYC Transit also is considering longer-term resiliency upgrades that include watertight doors and hatches, deployable stair and vent covers, conduit sealing, elevator hardening, manhole inserts, mechanical closure devices, floodwalls, floodgate enclosures, hydrostatic strengthening of existing facility walls and improved drainage and detention systems.
Ortiz adds that steps to protect vulnerable subway yards are likely to include retaining walls, flood barriers, improved drainage and pumping, and an underground detention system with a backflow valve.
"While our preference is to install permanent solutions that will last hundreds of years, when possible, we are also implementing immediate protections where they are most needed," he says. "NYC Transit is working with different industry partners to investigate innovative solutions to understand what will work best in our system."
The agency has either expedited or contracted about $1 billion in Sandy repair and recovery projects throughout the city transit and commuter rail network so far, Ortiz says. While temporary work has kept most of the system running, the permanent recovery measures "will take years to complete," he adds.
Agency Plans to Rebuild Hudson Line Substations
Metro-North plans to invest $40 million to rebuild three power substations on its Hudson Line in New York. Designs for the Riverdale, Tarrytown, and Croton-Harmon substations were completed this summer. The agency plans to advertise the rebuilds by the end of August, with bids due by the end of September, says Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman. She says a contract will then be awarded by the end of the year, with completion expected in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The new 4-megawatt substations, which will be metal-clad and prefabricated, will replace the old brick and mortar buildings and include cast-coil transformers as opposed to liquid or oil-filled, Anders says. In addition, the structures' 30-ft by 100-ft foundation platforms will be elevated above flood level by "varying amounts depending on topography of specific locations," Anders says.
"In most cases, the floor will be between 4 to 6 feet above the ground and accessed by stairs," she says. The new substations will be equipped with rubber gaskets on doors to reduce the possibility of water intrusion.
The railroad also is elevating associated trackside equipment on the Hudson Line that is normally at ground level to the transformer platform. This includes third rail sectionalizing switches and snowmelter control cabinets.
Currently, Metro-North has 65 sectionalizing switches out of service due to Sandy, Anders says. Four will be replaced with each of the new three substations and the remainder as part of an upcoming signal cable replacement project.
N.J. Utility Begins Gas Main Replacement Work
Gas main replacements by PSE&G are already under way in several New Jersey towns. Work in Wayne was completed in July, and in Totowa, it is scheduled to finish by year-end. Other towns to receive gas main replacements include Bayonne, Hackensack, Paramus and Trenton. Hard-hit Hoboken will have about 33% of its gas mains upgraded. That project is one of the larger ones being undertaken as part of the Energy Strong program, says Lindsey Puliti, a spokeswoman.
Created in the wake of Sandy to strengthen New Jersey's gas and electric infrastructure against severe weather damage, the program includes $620 million to protect, raise or relocate 29 switching facilities and substations that were damaged by water as well as $350 million to replace and modernize 250 miles of low-pressure cast-iron gas mains in or near flood areas.
The program also includes $100 million to create redundancy in the system to reduce outages; $100 million to deploy smart grid technologies to better monitor system operations; and $50 million to protect five natural gas metering stations and a liquefied natural gas station affected by Sandy or located in flood zones.
Work began after the state public utilities board approved PSE&G's Energy Strong proposal in May. It had been pending since February 2013 after the utility first sought approval to invest $2.6 billion during the next five years. Initially, the utility had pegged the Energy Strong program as a 10-year initiative estimated at $3.9 billion.
The utility says it expects to replace by year-end about 88 miles of low-pressure cast iron gas mains that sustained water damage from Sandy or Hurricane Irene, with the remainder scheduled for replacement in 2015. The work consists of replacing the cast iron mains with plastic and upgrading the older service lines that bring gas to individual homes and businesses. The new pipes will prevent water from entering the mains, increasing the reliability of gas service in these locations, PSE&G says.
"We're working to start building resiliency into our systems to withstand the kind of severe weather that has devastated our state in recent years," said Ralph LaRossa, PSE&G president, in a statement. "Once this work is done, our gas system in these areas will be better protected during future storms."
PSE&G expects to begin raising or fortifying substations later this year, once engineering plans are finalized. The utility says the work schedule will also depend on material availability and obtaining local construction permits. Some 29 substations in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic, Somerset and Union counties are slated for hardening.
The utility estimates that the work approved by the state board will create more than 2,000 jobs. "We expect to hire more than 300 additional employees this year, about half of them in union positions," said PSEG's Izzo in a statement.
"The infrastructure investments are also expected to put skilled contractors and laborers to work installing new gas mains, raising or relocating substation equipment and erecting water barriers," he added. The utility jobs will include relay technicians, substations mechanics, engineers, environmental analysts and project managers.
National Park Service/ Federal Highway Administration
Six Fire Island, N.Y., Projects Are Under Way
Sandy also clobbered national parks along the Eastern Seaboard. While many rehab projects, including work at Liberty and Ellis islands, have been completed, officials say there is still a lot to be done.
Work within the Fire Island National Seashore and the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site is ongoing. Activity includes the design and construction of stronger boardwalks and the use of more durable construction materials. The replaced dock and boardwalks within the Fire Island seashore site were designed to be more resilient and to survive water submersion, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The agency adds that pile lengths were increased and the use of hurricane ties were incorporated into the project's specifications.
FHWA has six Fire Island projects under way, two of which will be completed this year. Repairs to the island's Lighthouse dock, Sailors Haven marina and Watch Hill marina are either under design or in acquisition and will be completed in 2015, the agency says.
The work at the remaining sites includes dock structural repairs and electrical work. The final project on the island, to be delivered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this year, involves the dredging of the Watch Hill and Sailors Haven channels, according to FHWA. Other Park Service and FHWA resiliency projects in New York and New Jersey were completed within the Jamaica Bay, Sandy Hook and Staten Island units of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
The Great Kills Marina within the Staten Island unit now is more resilient through the use of larger, longer piles, FHWA says. In Maryland's Assateague Island National Seashore, the Park Service expanded the use of certain pavements instead of replacing damaged asphalt. Designs include relocatable at-grade boardwalks, as well as stronger, elevated boardwalks, the agency adds.
Following Sandy, the agencies received recovery funds. These included funding to FHWA under the Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) program.
The eligible work included replacement of the destroyed service dock at Liberty Island and the repair of critical damage to the visitor dock. The approximate $16-million project, which was awarded in April 2013, was necessary to restore visitor access, FHWA says. Resiliency efforts at the site included the use of stronger composite piles and stainless steel fasteners and connectors to construct a more robust facility. Replacement of the service dock was completed in July 2013 and the visitor dock on Dec. 16.
Only a portion of the damage on Liberty Island was eligible for funding through the ERFO Program, however, and none of the work on Ellis Island was eligible, FHWA says. The Park Service received additional emergency funds for non-transportation facilities through other agency appropriations and funding sources, FHWA says.
Sandy also damaged the promenade, grounds, buildings and much of the infrastructure on Liberty Island. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems destroyed by severe flooding were replaced. All electrical switches and equipment were relocated from basement level to a new steel floor that was erected 14 ft above ground level to comply with new Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations and to prevent future damage and loss of power during subsequent storms, says a spokesman for the contractor Joseph A. Natoli Construction.
Overhauls of the island's administration, concession and maintenance buildings were also completed, and the Statue of Liberty was reopened to the public in July 2013.
Prior to Sandy's arrival, however, Natoli had just completed a year-long, $30-million project to improve visitor experience, accessibility and safety at the site. Following completion of the upgrades, the monument reopened to the public on Oct. 28, 2012. But just one day later, due to the approaching storm, it was closed.
The statue itself was not affected, however, says Mindi Rambo, a spokeswoman for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Office. "The base to torch were not damaged by the storm," she says. The damage was all infrastructure related. Today, the pedestal, crown and grounds are all accessible, she adds.