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Hurricane Sandy: DOT Year in Review

In the year since Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has been coordinating closely with its state and federal partners to speed the restoration of transportation systems in affected states, while working to ensure that the new infrastructure is built to withstand future storms. 

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, DOT, with its partners and other federal agencies, worked to ensure fast, efficient transport of power sources, fuel, and supplies to speed Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.

Hurricane Sandy triggered one of the worst transportation disasters in U.S. history, but DOT continues to stand ready to help the region move forward to complete its recovery and strengthen its resiliency, so that taxpayers are not asked to repair the same infrastructure a second or third time.

Under the direction of President Obama, the Administration has worked to cut red tape and build on lessons learned from previous disasters to help families get back in their homes; get small businesses back on their feet; and help communities rebuild their critical infrastructure.

Photo of Secretary Foxx meeting with workers doing post-Sandy reconstruction
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx meeting with workers at a transit reconstruction site in Brooklyn.

Immediate Response

DOT played an instrumental role positioning assets leading up to the storm’s impact, and recovering immediately after. In the first days following the storm, DOT made available more than $29 million to impacted states and administered a host of waivers, special permits, and other regulatory flexibilities to speed the delivery of materials and rebuilding efforts.

  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved $29 million in emergency relief funds for states to use in rebuilding roads, bridges, seawalls and tunnels in the immediate days after the storm.
  • The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) worked closely with FEMA and GSA to secure as many as 350 buses to replace lost commuter rail and transit service in New Jersey. Within days of the storm hitting, FTA was on the ground with FEMA to assess damage to transit agencies and to determine what kinds of projects should be eligible for reimbursement. FTA quickly set up funding categories to help local transit agencies file for aid for eligible expenses.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and FHWA worked with the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) to cut through red tape to expedite the permitting process for carriers moving temporary mobile housing units from Maryland and Alabama to New Jersey. FHWA worked with states to allow nighttime moves, which are normally prohibited.
  • FMCSA issued an Eastern Regional Emergency Declaration to temporarily lift hours-of-service requirements and other regulations to assist interstate motor carrier drivers and operators providing direct emergency relief, including generators and fuel.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) worked directly with Amtrak and freight rail carriers in the Northeast Corridor as they assessed damage, facilitated recovery efforts and planned to resume service. Four of the six tunnels that carry Amtrak trains under the East and Hudson Rivers were left flooded by Sandy- all four were reopened by November 9.
  • Working with the Department of Homeland Security, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) provided FEMA with several nearby ships to provide lodging, food, and power for emergency response teams who had traveled to New York.
  • The Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) helped speed the transport of hazardous materials, including much-needed fuel, to and from hurricane disaster areas with fast tracked emergency special permits.

Recovery Funding

In the past year, DOT has obligated $1.3 billion across four operating administrations to support recovery and resiliency projects.

  • FTA has allocated $5.7 billion to all affected transit agencies for Sandy recovery activities and for anticipated resiliency projects. FTA also worked expediently to develop a new emergency relief program to facilitate federal assistance for public transportation systems.
    • In New York, the Montague tunnel carries 65,000 customers each weekday on the R train and was flooded with more than 27 million gallons of salt water. FTA is covering 90% of the $262.4 million project cost, with $56.4 million dedicated to resiliency work.
  • FHWA has provided $586 million in emergency relief funding to states and federal lands impacted by Sandy, including Liberty Island, which was open in time for Independence Day after crews worked tirelessly to replace the docks, all of which were destroyed by the storm.
  • FRA provided $30.2 million to Amtrak to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along its heavily-traveled Northeast Corridor.
  • FAA has allocated $28.5 million in emergency relief funding to states impacted by Sandy to repair critical FAA infrastructure.

Resiliency Projects

  • FRA is providing $185 million in relief funding to the Hudson Yards Right-of-Way Preservation project to help pave the way for two flood-resistant tunnels under the Hudson River, between New York and New Jersey. The project will ensure greater resiliency against future super storms and disasters, as well as allow service in the nation’s busiest commuter corridor to continue uninterrupted while long-term repairs are completed on either of the existing century-old tunnels that now connect New York and New Jersey.
  • Through FHWA’s Federal Lands Program, the replacement docks and boardwalks at Fire Island National Seashore and Gateway National Recreation Area were designed to tolerate being submerged by using stronger piles and hurricane ties.
  • FTA has made available $1.3 billion to increase transit systems’ resiliency in the face of future disasters. In New York, storm drains were elevated to reduce the volume of water that pours into stations below street level, higher capacity water pumps and back-up sources of power for lighting, flood pumps and other necessities were installed. The hardest hit transit agencies in New York and New Jersey will use this funding to upsize pumps and raise interlocking signals in flood prone areas and develop infrastructure to allow additional drainage.