Hoboken PATH station 'weeks' from reopening

Associated Press Modified: November 27, 2012 at 6:31 pm •  Published: November 27, 2012
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HOBOKEN, N.J. (AP) — The rail terminal here is a relic from a different era, old enough to have seen the Jazz Age and the Great Depression, survive two World Wars and withstand the encroachment of the automobile.

It almost met its match in Hurricane Sandy.

More than a month after the superstorm forced the Hudson River over its banks and cascading onto underground platforms and tracks, service on the Port Authority Trans-Hudson line out of Hoboken remains suspended, even as other portions of the system have been restored.

It will be weeks before trains run again, PATH's acting director said Tuesday.

Age and geography combine to make this one of the New York area's more vulnerable pieces of infrastructure, as the hulking building squats mere yards from the river at the bottom of a gentle downslope.

In the wake of Sandy, officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said all existing infrastructure is being reviewed for possible flood mitigation. But there was the sense that even greater protective measures might not have been enough here.

"This was something that was larger than anybody ever expected," PATH acting director Stephen Kingsberry said Tuesday. "We're in Hoboken, where a lot of the above-ground parts were flooded. This station is underground. That's the problem of the day. I don't think any of the areas of Hoboken were able to escape this amount of water."

Surveillance videos released recently by the Port Authority show water gushing down stairways and onto platforms, submerging turnstiles and ticket machines. Some tracks took on eight feet of water. Overall, the PATH system that serves Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken and lower Manhattan suffered $300 million in damage, Kingsberry said.

During a tour of the station and tracks on Tuesday, two workers were cleaning off a circuit box that is used to de-energize the third rail in one of the tunnels; farther down the tunnel another crew was working on two 12,000-pound pumps and other workers were busy reconnecting circuits in a nerve center that controls track switches. The nerve center filled with more than five feet of water, complete with floating rats, employees said.

The pumps interspersed along the tracks can pump out water at 700 gallons per minute, according to John Burkhard, an assistant superintendent in the way and structures division. Additional measures were taken as well, he said, but they were no match for the huge volume of water.