7 On Your Side Investigates: New rail tunnel needed to avoid transportation Armageddon

NEW YORK (WABC) -- There is a point along the Northeast Corridor where multiple tracks that carry 450 trains a day squeeze down to just two tracks: Amtrak's Hudson river Tunnel.

It is a two-mile tunnel under the river with one track heading into Penn Station and one track outbound, and it was devastated during Superstorm Sandy.

"It flooded the tunnel with 13 million gallons of water," Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz said. "The water was pumped out, but every day salt and chlorides left behind are eating away at the tunnel walls and infrastructure protecting high voltage cables."

During a recent ride through the tunnel, Schulz pointed out the deterioration that is moving the region closer to a point when extensive repairs will have to be done.

The project will require closing down one of the two tracks for two years at a time to rebuild the tunnel, which Schulz says would reduce train traffic across the river by 75 percent.

Web extra: Time running out for new Hudson River tunnel
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Necessary repairs to the current aging infrastructure could reduce capacity on the nation's busiest rail line from 24 trains per hour to just six.

Right now, the two tracks shared by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit move 24 trains per hour. When repairs become inevitable in about seven years, service would have to be reduced to just six trains per hour.

"That's why refer to this as the most urgent infrastructure program in the country," Schulz said. "It is unacceptable to have 10 percent of the nation's gross domestic product relying on a single point of failure that is 107 years old."

With time running out, the need to build a new rail tunnel has reached the zero hour, according to Schulz. He says a new tunnel would allow Amtrak to close the existing two tunnels for repairs without crippling train service.

New York and New Jersey have committed a combined $5 billion toward the project. The Trump Administration has yet to commit any money to new tunnels, leaving it out of the president's infrastructure plan.

"We need to get this done as soon as possible," Schulz said. "It's that urgent. Every day that we don't begin construction on a new tunnel, we increase the risk of an infrastructure failure on the old one. We believe at the end of the day, we'll have that federal funding partner at the table."


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