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Sandy Recovery Efforts Continue as Latest Storm Moves On

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the Fast Lane, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Despite the arrival of another storm last night, hurricane recovery efforts continue throughout the Northeast.  For DOT, this means working with state and local officials to help commuters get where they need to go and ensure families have access to housing and other resources they need.

For example, our Federal Highway Administration is working with our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) to speed up permitting for carriers moving temporary mobile housing units from Maryland and Alabama to New Jersey.

Transporting temporary housing

Transporting temporary housing (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Transportation)

Under normal circumstances, carriers have to work with states to get permits from each state they travel through. In this instance, FHWA is coordinating with AASHTO to cut through some of the red tape and get all necessary permits at the same time. In addition, FHWA is also working with states to allow nighttime moves, which aren’t normally allowed.

This partnership will help people move into badly needed temporary housing even faster.

Working with the Department of Homeland Security, our Maritime Administration has provided FEMA with several nearby ships to provide lodging, food, and power for emergency response teams who have traveled to New York. 

The TS Empire State, a training vessel berthed at SUNY Maritime Academy, is currently supporting FEMA community relations surge personnel. The Ready Reserve Fleet vessel Wright--out of Baltimore--and the TS Kennedy--out of Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts--are being used to house and feed FEMA community relations surge personnel and teams from the American Red Cross.  Both vessels are docked at Home Port Pier on Staten Island.

Our Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is also helping speed the transport of hazardous materials--including much-needed fuel--to and from hurricane disaster areas with fast tracked emergency special permits.

Several permits have been issued to expedite gasoline and diesel transport into New Jersey and New York. Another permit has been issued that allows a large retail store to move goods quickly from damaged stores to temporary facilities nearby so people still have access to needed goods.

Yet another special hazardous materials permit will speed up clean-up and removal of debris.

And, in news that should bring some relief to travelers throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Amtrak plans to reopen by late Friday three tunnels that provide access to and from New York's  Penn Station.

Four of the six tunnels that carry Amtrak trains under the East and Hudson Rivers were left flooded by Sandy. Two of the East River tunnels stayed dry. Amtrak workers pumped one of the two Hudson River tunnels and reopened it on October 31. It has taken another week for Amtrak to finish drying out the other three tunnels.

One of those crosses the Hudson River and will allow extra Amtrak service to New Jersey and points south. That tunnel also carries trains for NJ Transit, which means more commuter service can be restored. Like many of you, I watched reports of the most recent nor'easter with alarm. And while there's no doubt that the roads in the Sandy-stricken region are slick, it's also clear that the critical work of recovery continues.

I'm very thankful for the efforts of everyone who has worked tirelessly to help this region resume normal activity, even in the face of this latest storm. Keep up the terrific work!