Amtrak LogoSen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging the federal government to use $550 million worth of leftover Hurricane Sandy relief money to fix Amtrak and commuter rail tunnels in New York City that were damaged during the storm. 

Problems with rail tunnels in the New York City area have emerged as a political issue as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who cancelled an earlier proposal to build a new tunnel between New York and New Jersey, runs for president. 

Schumer, a top ranking Senate Democrat, said unobligated Hurricane Sandy relief could be used to help pay for repairs to Amtrak’s East River Tunnels, which carry trains between Manhattan and Queens under the city’s East River. 

Read more from The Hill

Amtrak LogoWASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood May 3 announced he is providing $30.2 million to Amtrak to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along its heavily-traveled Northeast Corridor. The funding comes from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 and is being provided by the Federal Railroad Administration.

“Amtrak serves as a critical transportation link throughout the Northeast Corridor, and we are committed to helping it rebuild from Hurricane Sandy on behalf of the thousands of riders who rely on it each day,” said Secretary LaHood. “We continue to do all we can to help make all of our storm-damaged public transportation systems whole again.”

Today’s grant reimburses Amtrak for $20.1 million for expenses associated with pumping water from tunnels and debris removal and for immediate and on-going repairs to vital infrastructure needed to operate more than 2,000 trains along the Northeast Corridor each day. The balance of the grant money will fund repairs to the East Tunnel that connects Manhattan and Queens, the North River Tunnel that connects New Jersey and New York City, and other facilities.

Following Hurricane Sandy, four of the six tunnels between New York City and New Jersey flooded with seawater. Immense amounts of water and debris were removed from the tunnels and system-wide repairs had to be completed before service could be restored. The most critical damage was to electrical systems, particularly the Kearney substation, located in Kearney, New Jersey, plus signals, lighting, mechanical rooms, and emergency call boxes. The damage was caused by wind, heavy rains and saltwater.

“The storm’s wake demonstrates the necessity to not only rebuild, but to invest in our infrastructure so we are better prepared to withstand and recover from future natural disasters,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo.

Additional repairs to rail, ties, ballasts, third rail signal systems, pump stations, circuit breakers, and vital infrastructure are still on-going and are expected to continue throughout the summer months.

The appropriations measure was signed into law by President Obama on January 29, 2013. The total appropriation related to Amtrak’s recovery from Sandy was $32 million.