Lincoln Tunnel

Port Authority Marks Fifth Anniversary of Superstorm Sandy by Announcing Nearly $1 Billion Invested

Five years after Superstorm Sandy caused unprecedented flooding and devastation to Port Authority facilities, the agency announced that it has invested nearly $1 billion to date to recover, protect and rebuild in the storm’s aftermath, with plans to invest the remainder of the currently estimated economic loss of $2.8 billion in the coming years to further rebuild, protect and add resiliency to agency assets.

In the days after Superstorm Sandy hit the region in October 2012, the Port Authority immediately took aggressive efforts to repair and reopen critical transportation facilities – including its airports, tunnels, PATH system and port terminals.  Following the immediate repair and recovery operations, the Port Authority began planning and undertaking projects to protect agency assets from future catastrophic storms.  In 2013, the Port Authority created a dedicated Storm Mitigation and Resilience Office which was charged with focusing on the program to recover, protect and rebuild more resiliently in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Over the past five years, the agency has completed more than 80 projects, with another 65 Sandy-related capital projects in progress. Projects including work on the PATH system and the Holland Tunnel are being staged to minimize disruption to daily, 24 x 7 operations.  The Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have and will continue to provide grant funding essential to the Port Authority’s recovery, repair and resiliency initiatives.  Currently, it is expected that, in aggregate, the available insurance coverage and federal disaster relief funds will substantially cover the Port Authority’s estimated damage and resiliency costs.

“Superstorm Sandy devastated this region causing unprecedented damage to critical Port Authority assets, including the PATH rail system,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole.  “The multi-billion-dollar recovery and resiliency investments will better protect our facilities from the impact of future storms, and keep our millions of customers moving, and our regional jobs and economy growing.”

“We are laser-focused on ensuring the transportation assets we own and operate are rebuilt to standards that reflect new and evolving expectations of severe weather and climate change, so that we minimize the risk of major disruptions and shutdowns when major storms hit,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton.  “We will continue to review, evaluate and explore innovative ways to protect our assets and ensure we have best-in-class systems in place at our facilities.”

Superstorm Sandy resulted in significant damage to Port Authority facilities.  Much of the PATH system witnessed unprecedented flooding that decimated critical signal and switch systems.  Thanks to around-the-clock efforts by PATH staff, PATH was able to recommence critical trans-Hudson service within a week of the storm.  At the World Trade Center site, flood waters destroyed much of the underground electrical and mechanical systems.  The seaports suffered damaged electrical systems and cargo-handling equipment, and Port Authority crews needed to pump millions of gallons of water out of the Holland Tunnel before operations could resume.

At the region’s airports, the agency sustained significant flood damage including at LaGuardia Airport, where 100 million gallons of water flooded the airfield and destroyed the airport’s Instrument Landing System pier.  Flooding at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Teterboro Airport resulted in the disruption of power and impacted operations for several days at all three facilities.  Thanks to an all-out restoration and recovery effort, the Port Authority was able to recommence flight operations within three days of the storm.

Following are some of the Sandy-related projects that have been completed or are in progress at the Port Authority’s transportation facilities:


  • Flood protection for electrical substations and improvements to runway and taxiway drainage systems at LaGuardia Airport.
  • The Design-Build partner for the future Newark Liberty International Airport Terminal A project will be required to adopt the Port Authority’s Design Guidelines for Climate Resilience.  The guidelines require the design to accommodate today’s 100-year flood, plus an additional factor of safety (freeboard), and a further adjustment for projected future sea level rise.
  • Installation of tide gates that will prevent the loss of critical infrastructure including pump stations, electrical transformers and controls at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
  • Two projects to restore the Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS) arrestor beds at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports.


  • A combination of permanent and deployable flood barriers will be installed at PATH’s Grove Street, Newport, Exchange Place and Hoboken stations.
  • A project to repair dozens of PATH cars damaged by Sandy-related storm surge and a major project to clean salt from the tunnels that connect the World Trade Center PATH Station to the Exchange Place Station.
  • Installation of concrete seawall and automatic flood barrier at PATH’s Harrison Car Maintenance Facility to protect PATH’s main rail car repair facility and electrical substations adjacent to the facility.
  • Improvements to PATH’s Rail Yard Extension to enable PATH to store more rail vehicles outside of the flood zone.


  • Temporary repairs were made to both the Holland and Lincoln tunnels.  Permanent repairs are part of future capital Sandy projects.
  • Installations of flood barriers at the Holland Tunnel to protect tunnel portals, vent structures and enhancements to the conduits that carry fiber optic and electrical cables across the Hudson River.


  • Improvements to reinforce and stabilize subgrade that will mitigate the cratering of the Howland Hook Container Facility on Staten Island that results from major flooding.  This project also substantially enhances the drainage of the cargo handling area.
  • A project to restore the roadway and shoreline at the BMW auto processing and shipping facility in Port Jersey.

World Trade Center:

  • Repairs to the chiller plant at the World Trade Center site, along with subgrade electrical infrastructure repairs at One World Trade Center and the World Trade Center’s central fan plant.
  • Installation of a comprehensive, three-tier Water Intrusion Protection System (WIPS) at the World Trade Center site that includes flood barriers above ground and additional flood protections below ground.

The Port Authority has and will continue to invest in both deployable flood mitigation protective measures and permanent resilience projects to fortify key facilities.

In recent hurricane seasons, the Port Authority has put in place deployable measures include the installation of stop logs, HESCO sand barriers, concrete barriers, emergency generators, additional pumping capacity and fuel contracts.  Through the installation of these measures across every at-risk facility, the Port Authority now has:

  • Over 170 generators capable of providing nearly 50 Megawatts of emergency power;
  • Over 5,500 linear feet of flood barrier stop logs;
  • Over 2,500 linear feet of concrete bin blocks;
  • Over 300 linear feet of water filled barriers;
  • Over 3,000 linear feet of concrete barriers;
  • Over 6,500 linear feet of Sand Filled Barriers;
  • Over 1,000 linear feet of Aqua Fencing.

Aside from the substantial investment the Port Authority and its federal partners will make over the next several years to rebuild more resiliently from Superstorm Sandy, the agency has improved the way it manages risks posed by sea-level rise and severe weather. To that end, the Port Authority’s revised design guidelines ensure all new capital projects vulnerable to the rise of sea levels undergo a design review and cost-benefit analysis to determine the appropriate level of flood protection.

In addition, the Port Authority has teamed up with public and private sector partners to understand the future impacts of severe weather such as Superstorm Sandy and to plan for resiliency initiatives.  They include: a partnership with a team of experts from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, that resulted in a better understanding of the latent effects of salt and the damage to certain building materials; a partnership with a team of experts from Rutgers University, Pratt Institute and Stony Brook University, the Port Authority’s Engineering Department, Office of Energy and Environmental Programs and Storm Mitigation and Resilience Office to investigate design strategies that will incorporate sustainability into resilience, which could help areas of hardened urban shoreline better support native flora and fauna; and a partnership with regional transportation agencies including NJ Transit, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Office of Management and Budget and the New York City Housing Authority, and the Port Authority’s Storm Mitigation and Resilience Office to develop a disaster recovery program best practices and lessons learned report based on the collective experiences.

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