Hudson tunnel still suffering from Hurricane Sandy

20 November 2020

With a litany of problems, many stemming from the Hurricane Sandy flooding of October 2012, a soon to be published study by Amtrak will urge urgent repairs are needed to the Hudson Tunnel in the next few years if ‘potentially catastrophic failures’ are to be avoided.

Reviewed by The Associated Press, the study found that the massive inundation by saltwater during the storm has caused problems so serious for the 110-year-old tunnel that they must be resolved before a new tunnel under the River Hudson is built.

The salty deposits resulting from Sandy are reactivated by subsequent water ingress and so continue to degrade the tunnel walls, rail-track bed, wood ties, and rails. Pools of water on the track bed can sap power from the track’s third rail which means trains lose most, if not all, of their power. Particularly vulnerable are the 12,000V electrical cables that run the length of the 4km tunnel. Tunnel infrastructure failures continue to cause train disruptions resulting in severe delays to passengers.

One possible intervention could be to inject a waterproof lining where the leaks occur, not only in the tunnel itself but also on either side where the water table is high. Such remedial works will have to continue until a new tunnel is built; this is expected to take at least a decade but it will allow temporary closure of the old tunnel to allow the necessary repair work to take place.

Amtrak chairman Tony Coscia told The Associated Press: “We don’t want to wait for the catastrophic problem, we want to get ahead of it.” The Amtrak report is expected to be the most detailed study yet on the extent of the required repairs which could run into millions of dollars.