Skift Take

Before the U.S. can talk seriously about high-speed rail, it needs to figure out how to build some new tunnels along what is both the busiest and the fastest-growing rail corridor in the country.

Amtrak, the U.S. national rail operator, said the century-old commuter-train tunnels beneath the Hudson River need repairs from Hurricane Sandy that will require them to be taken out of service for extended periods.

Though the tunnels are safe for passenger operations, a “permanent fix is required soon so that the tunnels remain available for long-term use by the traveling public,” Amtrak said today in a statement.

Sandy inundated both tubes of the Hudson River tunnel and two of the four crossing the East River with seawater. A new engineering report shows that while the tunnel linings are sound, chlorides and sulfates are damaging components including the signal, electrical and mechanical systems, Amtrak said.

Access to the Region’s Core, a $12.4 billion project to replace the Hudson tunnels, was canceled by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2010. ARC would have more than doubled the number of peak-time runs, to 48 trains per hour.

Amtrak said the new report underscores the need to build an ARC alternative that it calls the Gateway. The work on the damaged tunnels can’t begin until after the Gateway is built and operating, Amtrak said.

“The Northeast region needs to make the Gateway Program a priority and we must get about the business of moving it forward as fast as we can,” Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia said in the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stacie Sherman in Trenton at sbabula@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net. 

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Tags: amtrak, nyc

Photo Credit: Travelers waiting during rush hour at Penn Station. Matthias Rosenkranz / Flickr