07 May 2021
Joint - Public Hearing: East Side Access/East Side Tunnel Project Oversight (MTA/Amtrak)
Online Virtual Public Hearing
Joint – Senate Standing Committee on Transportation
Chair: Senator Timothy M. Kennedy
Senate Standing Committee on Corporations
Chair: Senator Leroy Comrie
Public Hearing: East Side Access/East Side Tunnel Project Oversight (MTA/Amtrak)
Place: Online; : https://www.nysenate.gov/events
Time: 10:00 A.M.
Contact: Rick Rodgers firstname.lastname@example.org ; Rich Marius (email@example.com)
Media Contact: Senate Majority Press Office (518) 455-2415;
ORAL TESTIMONY BY INVITATION ONLY
SUBJECT: AMTRAK/Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Progress With Respect to the Rehabilitation of the East River Tunnels and the East Side Access Project.
PURPOSE: The purpose of the hearing is to examine and discuss the current status of the East Side Access (ESA) and related projects, including but not limited to, rehabilitation and improvement of the East River Tunnels (ERTs) & Harold Interlocking.
The East River Tunnels are critical pieces of infrastructure through which hundreds of trains and thousands of commuters pass each day. Hundreds of millions of gallons of water inundated the tunnels during Superstorm Sandy and left them in a precarious state of disrepair. A 2017 report by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the number of trains delayed or canceled because of problems with the tubes and their switches increased 72 percent since Sandy, and accounted for a significant number of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR’s) overall on-time problems. Indeed, that report is now over three years old, and as the corrosion inside the tunnels has worsened, so has its impact on the quality of the railroad’s service. It also poses a major safety threat, and in 2017 Newsday wrote, “[l]et’s not wait until there is a terrible accident or a system failure that renders the tunnel unusable and requires another emergency response. We’re sounding the alarm now so there is urgency at Amtrak…to schedule the repairs and upgrades.” However, as we enter 2021 there is no clear and actionable operational plan to fix the tunnels and it is unclear that this project is a commanding priority for Amtrak.
Amtrak has stated in the past that it must wait for the completion of East Side Access before it can turn to the East River Tunnels, since a total shutdown of a tube is required for its repair. The Committee wishes to hear expert testimony on alternatives to a lengthy shutdown that would be conditioned upon the total completion of ESA. For example, the recent usage of “in-service refurbishment” on the NYC Transit L Subway Line demonstrates that a complete shutdown of an entire tube may well be avoidable. Further, a recent study commissioned by the Gateway Program Development Corporation and issued by London Bridge Associates recommended “in-service refurbishment” for the rehabilitation of the North River Tunnels under the Hudson River. These tubes, similarly-situated to the East River Tunnels, were also inundated during Sandy and the report found that only weeknight and weekend outages would be required. This method seems like it may be preferable to the danger attendant to waiting for the completion of East Side Access and the disruption that would result from congesting the East Side Access tubes, though the hearing seeks to solicit and evaluate the different arguments in favor of and against this potential alternative.
This Public Hearing will provide an opportunity to discuss the current status of the ESA project--including rehabilitation and improvement of the East River Tunnels (ERTs) & Harold Interlocking. Your testimony will help identify any issues affecting project participants, transit workers, riders, and other stakeholders and to ensure that the various construction projects associated with the ESA progress efficiently for all intended beneficiaries. Additionally, this hearing may cover issues relating to Penn Station Access and transit options for Bronx residents.