Federal officials recently announced new standards that will protect infrastructure and commuters against future super storms. During a visit to the region, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Shaun Donovan announced that standards for rebuilding property destroyed by Sandy will require homeowners, businesses, and agencies like the NJ Transit to elevate structures one foot higher than what the current flood maps require.
Anytime property owners sustain damage that’s valued at more than 50 percent of the property’s market value, they will be required to adhere to the new standard, if they’re rebuilding with federal funds. This requirement will bring consistency throughout all the federal agencies. LaHood said that Sandy’s force “dealt a devastating blow to the transportation system here in the Northeast.” He continued, “Right here, at Substation 41, major flooding caused this station to lose power, impacting Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. Today’s announcement will help prevent the kind of infrastructure delays that Sandy imposed.”
The Christie Administration standards that were released earlier this year are already consistent with the federal flood standard, according to Donovan.
After Super Storm Sandy, Substation 41 which is a large structure in the middle of the Meadowlands, had a limited amount of NJ Transit trains operating in an out of New York Penn Station. As of today, crews continue to work on restoring power to the transit center.
The NJ transit is seeking funds for Sandy relief from the government to restore $450 million in system damage. John Durso, Jr. spokesman for the NJ transit said, that the agency will review the new federal standard and work closely with the US Department of Transportation “to harden our transit infrastructure and make it more resilient to future super storms.”
Amtrak shares its Northeast Corridor tracks in New Jersey with the NJ transit. Amtrak officials said they want to add electrical capacity in addition to having Substation 41 atop a platform that will be high above the water line. Federal officials have advised that elevating the station will cost approximately $25 million.
However, officials in Moonachie and Little Ferry (North Jersey’s two hardest-hit communities) said they aren’t aware of any structures in their towns that meet the “substantial damage” threshold.
Preliminary maps released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency which reflect a higher and significantly expanded flood plain when compared to previous maps are the basis for the new standards. The previous maps have been in use since the 1980s and are used to assist in determining flood insurance premiums.
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