Photo Courtesy of Sen. Schumer’s Office
“The MTA and Amtrak need to repair the East River tunnels, fast,” Schumer demanded.
By Forum Staff
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and a bipartisan group of elected New York officials and commuter advocates last week demanded that Amtrak and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority set a plan with an ambitious deadline to use $432 million in federal funds Schumer secured to repair the East River tunnels—before its “festering issues” get even worse.
Despite Schumer successfully securing $432 million in unused Superstorm Sandy relief funds for repairs to the tunnels, Amtrak and the MTA have yet to make any meaningful or real progress on dedicating the funding to the critically needed project and repairs, according to the senior senator from New York.
“Plain and simple, the MTA and Amtrak need to repair the East River tunnels, fast. The $430 million in federal dollars that I secured are sitting there and now we just need MTA and Amtrak to set a plan with real deadlines to put that money to work for Long Island Rail Road commuters. Those tunnels are the most important link in the commute of hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders and a problem in one tunnel—like we saw [last] week—creates a nightmarish domino effect for the entire LIRR system, and that’s not acceptable, especially considering we have the funds to fix this,” Schumer said. “With train delays and disruptions on the rise, it’s time for Amtrak and the MTA to immediately commit to repairing and upgrading the East River Tunnels and use the $432 million we’ve already secured.”
Schumer pointed out that, since Sandy, the number of trains that were delayed, canceled or terminated because of issues with the East River tunnel have increased by 72 percent, a problem that Schumer says is likely to get worse as time goes on. While not necessarily as a result of damage from Sandy, given that salt water is corrosive to electrical systems and more, the prior damage to the tunnels from Sandy flooding will only lead to more problems in the future. Last week’s third rail electrical problem led to a three-hour LIRR delay and impacted thousands of commuters, a situation which will only repeat itself if repair work to the tunnel does not begin soon. Schumer has already written to Interim MTA Director Ronnie Hakim and Amtrak President Charles Moorman asking for an immediate update on the status of repairs to the East River tunnels and said that the two agencies should quickly work together to address these desperately needed repairs.
“The Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council strongly supports Senator Schumer’s call to promptly repair Sandy related damage to the East River Tunnels. Long Island depends upon Amtrak’s East River tunnels, with LIRR riders making up the vast majority of the 300,000 passengers that pass through them each weekday. Although Amtrak faces substantial other needs, the project to repair the East River tunnels must keep moving forward to prevent an already intolerable situation from getting worse,” said Mark Epstein, chairman, Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council.