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Fed Study Warned Transit Agencies of Flooding Potential

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 06:56 PM

(Nancy Solomon, New Jersey Public Radio) A year before storm Sandy, federal officials warned transit agencies to get their trains out of flood zones in advance of severe storms.  But New Jersey Transit, the nation's third largest transit agency, didn't heed that advice.

Maps produced in 2009 by the Army Corps of Engineers, taking into account storm dynamics and shoreline elevation, showed NJ Transit's rail yards well within potential flood zones for a Category 1 or larger hurricane.

Even as New York's MTA was moving subway and commuter trains to higher ground, NJ Transit parked valuable trains squarely in the middle of known potential flood zones for a Category 1 hurricane -- the equivalent of New York City's evacuation "Zone A." While the MTA had much of its system up and running within a week,  NJ Transit has taken much longer.

A spokesman for Governor Chris Christie says the trains were stored in in places that had never been inundated before. "You can prepare for a worst-case scenario," the spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said.  But, he added "the standard of preparedness was definitely raised by this storm."

In an interview with the NJ Star-Ledger published Wednesday, NJ Transit officials maintained the trains were stored where they "should be."

A year earlier, however, the Federal Transit Agency had distributed a report on climate change adaptation called "Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails."  The study warned transit agencies to prepare for worsening storms and floods. New Jersey Transit has not released a detailed accounting,  but Reuters has reported damage to trains could cost tens of millions of dollars.

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