In addition to the tremendous human suffering in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the estimate of damages to the transportation infrastructure of New York City alone could tally up to $10 billion, with another $40 billion in losses over the four weeks or so it’s expected to take to get the system fully operating again.
These numbers are based on a report from last year by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. It predicted the costs based on a storm similar in size to this week’s Sandy.
The impact on the transportation system of this highly unusual storm underscores how critical transportation, and especially public transportation, is to the health and commerce of our communities … New York being the premiere example.
The gridlock that will undoubtedly occur in the New York region will provide an all-too-real example of what life would be like without mass transit. During the time that the subway is recovering, people and businesses will need to rely as much as possible on the range of other options that are available, including telework, bus transit, carpooling, and good old-fashioned walking and biking.
According to an Associated Press article by David B. Caruso:
Klaus Jacob, an environmental disaster expert at Columbia University who oversaw the portion of the report dealing with transit disruptions, said the study estimated that it would take four weeks to get the subway system back to 90 percent of normal capacity.
“I’m not saying that this is definitely what is going to happen here,” he cautioned.
But he said the transit authority’s challenges are severe.
“In the tunnels under the East River, all the signal-and-control systems are underwater. And it is salt water,” he said. “It’s not just that it doesn’t work right now. It all has to be cleaned, dried, reassembled and tested. And we are not sure what the long-term corrosion effect might be.”
At the time of the study, he said, the MTA also had only a fraction of the large pumps it would need to get major floodwaters out of train and vehicle tunnels quickly.
The study looked at the kind of flood that the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates would only strike the city every 100 years.
This week’s storm, he said, illustrates the pressing need for better defenses against the higher water levels that will come with a warmer planet.
“I think we have come to the end of studies. What we need now is action,” he said.
Some authorities were contemplating the same ideas.