The restoration of the MTA’s little-used Port Jervis Line in the aftermath of damage inflicted upon it by Hurricane Irene will cost the cash-strapped agency $50 million, Metro-North said earlier this week. Furthermore, the railroad does not anticipate returning to a full timetable until the Fall of 2012, over a year after the storm.
“We are committed to restoring the Port Jervis Line as quickly as possible. It is an important part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s regional network,” MRN President Howard Permut said earlier this week. “In the meantime, Metro-North has marshaled the resources of MTA Bus to provide alternative service during reconstruction and Metro-North forces are building access roads to the tracks to literally lay the groundwork for the outside contractor.”
According to initial engineering assessments, approximately 90 percent of the repair work will involve replacing stones and trackbed washed away over a 14-mile stretch from Suffern to Harriman. In the aftermath of the flooding, over 50 washouts destroyed over two miles of the MTA’s right-of-way. The remainder of the work will involved repairs to the signal system.
As Metro-North said, “Water infiltration and erosion of the right-of-way have undermined circuit houses, signal cases and associated battery wells. In many areas, signal and fiber optic cables have been exposed and must be reburied and tested.” All told, the MTA is trying to restore service between Harriman and Suffern first before implementing repairs that will usher a return to the old timetable.
With a lofty pricetag and low ridership — only 2800 people per day use the Port Jervis line — many have wondered if this expenditure is a good use of MTA funds. Between the busing service and repairs, the total bill will top $60 million, and while the authority believes FEMA and insurance will cover some of the costs, they’ll have to foot part of the bill out of their dwindling cash reserves. As I said a few weeks ago, will the MTA take advantage of an opportunity or just throw money at a lesser-used commuter line?