Amtrak has launched the procurement phase of the rehabilitation of East River Tunnel with a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for construction services for the comprehensive renewal of two of the four tubes in the tunnel.
The work will modernise the tunnel infrastructure, improving safety, service capacity, reliability, and security and bring the systems to a state of good repair used by Amtrak, NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road. Preparatory work is already underway in Sunnyside Yard with major construction starting in early 2024 and continuing through 2027.
The selected construction contractor will rehabilitate both tubes by demolishing the existing tunnel systems down to the concrete liner and performing the reconstruction of all the systems.
The project is eligible for federal funding via the FY 2022-2023 Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program (FSP-NEC programme) created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
An application for a full funding grant for the East River Tunnel rehabilitation project was submitted in March 2023 in response to the FSP-NEC programme notice of funding opportunity. Amtrak issued this RFQ in anticipation of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) funding decision expected in the autumn of 2023.
Previously, Amtrak applied for, and was awarded, a grant under the FY 2021 Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair programme for the East River Tunnel rehabilitation enabling components project, which will ensure that traction power is maintained in each of the tunnel lines while rehabilitation activities are underway. Additional funding by the State of New York was announced in December 2021 by Senator Schumer, who facilitated an agreement in which MTA committed up to USD 432 million for the East River Tunnel project.
“Thanks to the USD 24 billion for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail programme on the Northeast Corridor that I secured in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the work to secure commitments from the parties involved, Amtrak can move forward to repair the East River Tunnels damaged during Sandy that are so vital to LIRR commuters,” Senator Schumer said.
East River Tunnel consists of four single-track tubes that extend east of Pennsylvania station, New York, from the vicinity of 6th Avenue, pass under the East River and emerge in Long Island City, Queens west of Sunnyside Yard. The tunnel connect Manhattan to Long Island and are used for Amtrak and MTA Long Island Rail Road
The construction of the tunnel was started in 1904 and entered operation in 1910. During Sandy storm (2012), two of the four tubes have been inundated and their status needs significant upgrades and rehabilitation. This project would rehabilitate East River Tunnel tubes 1 and 2 (with a length of 4 km each) which connect Penn station to Queens. Through this project, both tunnel tubes will be demolished down to the concrete liner and rebuilt with new bench walls, communication systems, and modern electrical and signaling conduit. According to Amtrak estimations, the tunnel rehabilitation requires USD 1.2 billion.
East River Tunnel is an essential component of the Northeast Corridor which is implemented under the Gateway programme covering the improvement of the most congested 16 km section delivering increased capacity to double the number of passenger trains under the Hudson River tunnel into NY Penn station. Gateway programme covers the implementation of 10 projects including Penn Station expansion and Hudson tunnel project.
Baltimore and Potomac tunnel replacement is another NEC project which requires USD 6 billion to ensure better communication and services on the corridor. In February 2023 an official ceremony was conducted by the President Joe Biden and the works have started in March 2023.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act delivers USD 66 billion for rail, including USD 22 billion to Amtrak for asset repairs, train replacement, as well as station improvement programme. The rail operator will use USD 16 billion for the national rail network, while USD 6 billion will be used for the Northeast Corridor. under the FRA Federal-State Partnership grant programme, USD 24 billion are expected to be used for Northeast Corridor’s modernisation and construction works including bridges, tunnels, stations and other improvements, while USD 12 billion will be delivered for corridor development excluding NEC.