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US DOT Releases $13M in Sandy Relief

Thursday, November 1, 2012

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The wind and rain may have subsided, but Hurricane Sandy's devastating damage to crucial infrastructure is just emerging, prompting the federal government to release $13 million in quick relief funds.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday (Oct. 30) that the Department of Transportation would make $13 million available immediately to New York and Rhode Island, the first two states to request emergency funding.

While it could take days or weeks to estimate how much the damage will cost, forecasters are putting the initial figures at upwards of $60 billion, Time magazine said.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Water rushed through an elevator shaft into the Hoboken PATH station during the storm.

First Step in 'Difficult Process'

The U.S. DOT's announcement that it would release quick relief funds followed President Obama's call for federal agencies to "act quickly and bring all available resources to bear" as soon as possible, the DOT said.

The $13 million represents 100 percent of funds requested by New York ($10 million) and Rhode Island ($3 million) and builds on the disaster assistance that Obama approved over the last several days, including a major disaster declaration approved early Tuesday for New York.

Flickr / MTA New York

The U.S. DOT released $13M in quick relief funds to New York and Rhode Island.  This bridge is at New York MTA's Harmon Yard.

"President Obama has directed us to immediately help restore vital transportation infrastructure following this unprecedented and devastating storm—and that's exactly what we are doing," LaHood said.

The two requests are the first to arrive at the DOT and represent the first installment of federal aid highway funds to help repair the damage to roads, bridges, and tunnels.

Other states are expected to apply for additional emergency relief funding in the next few days, according to the DOT.

"This funding is only the first step in the difficult process of helping the region recover," said Victor Mendez, Federal Highway Administrator. "The federal government stands ready to assist in helping affected states repair roads and bridges so that residents can begin to resume daily activities."

Restoring Critical Infrastructure

On Tuesday (Oct. 30) afternoon, LaHood held a conference with officials from 14 states impacted by Hurricane Sandy and outlined how they could apply for quick release emergency relief funding.

LaHood also described other steps the DOT had taken to assist states, including an Eastern Regional Emergency Declaration from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to temporarily lift hours-of-service requirements and other regulations.

Quick relief emergency funds will be used to pay for a variety of immediately necessary repairs to roads and bridges.

Flickr / MTA New York

Corrosive saltwater could cause long-term damage to flooded subways, experts say.

Corrosion Could Hamper Recovery

With New York City subways flooded, the extent of damage lurking under the water has yet to be determined, and some experts are saying that long-term corrosion damage could only make things worse.

"In the tunnels under the East River, all the signal-and-control systems are underwater. And it is salt water," said Klaus Jacob, an environmental disaster expert at Columbia University. "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."

The head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) told the Wall Street Journal that it was too early to tell how long it would take to pump out the water and make repairs. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it could take four days for train service to resume, but it was still unclear how much of the transit system would be operational.

NRC Returns to Normal Inspection

Also Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it would return to normal inspection coverage for most nuclear power plants in the Northeastern U.S. The agency had beefed up inspection in anticipation of the storm.

Heightened coverage will continue at the Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey, which is still in an "Alert" due to high water levels in its water intake structure, the NRC said.

Three other reactors experienced shutdowns during the storm, but all safety systems responded as designed.

NRC inspectors were onsite at all of the nuclear power plants expected to experience effects of the storm and have not identified any concerns.


Tagged categories: Accidents; DOT; Health and safety; Nuclear Power Plants

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