File this under lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy: New Jersey Transit is moving forward with a plan to build a storage facility for its trains on high ground.
The agency awarded a $7.6 million contract to Jacobs Engineering Group this week to design and engineer the County Yard project near New Brunswick, after facing criticism for leaving trains in low-lying areas during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Flooding caused $120 million in damages to trains and other equipment. The decision to move equipment to a flood-prone area went against the transit agency’s own hurricane response plan, though there have been conflicting stories about why this move was made.
“Here we are [nearly] 14 months later, there are areas where they have not completely restored service,” said Philip Craig, the vice president of the New Jersey Association of Rail Passengers, an advocacy group, noting some locomotives and railcars are still being fixed.
Designing a functioning storage yard is the first step, adds Craig, who supports the project. But equally important is developing plans to use the yard, especially given its location along the busy Northeast Corridor.
“You have to have arrangements with Amtrak, and both railroad companies have to agree to the plans,” explained Craig. “Then there has to be training. People need to know what they’re expected to do when an emergency comes.”
NJ Transit declined an interview to discuss the plans for the new facility.