SECAUCUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – The U.S. Energy Department is investing $1 million to look into improving New Jersey Transit’s train system after superstorm Sandy.
The grant announced at the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station in Secaucus on Monday is the first step toward building a new microgrid to power trains during major power outages.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joined Gov. Chris Christie and transit officials in making the announcement.
“When the grid goes down for NJ TRANSIT, it is a catastrophic event,” the governor said on Monday. “The power outages make it impossible to operate the signals, the switches or even operate crossing gates.”
Christie says the NJ Transitgrid would be the first microgrid built for a non-military use. It would supply highly reliable power when the regular power sources fail.
“That has the potential to power NJ TRANSIT assets and facilities even when the electric grid fails,” Christie said.
The microgrid would use alternate sources of power and would be the largest of its kind in the nation.
The Energy Secretary said fortifying critical infrastructure after Sandy is part of the Obama administration’s commitment to prepare for the inevitable effects of global climate change.
“We are past the point of debating whether policy responses are needed,” Moniz said, noting that the Northeast is already seeing more intense storms, rising sea levels and higher temperatures.
Christie has refused to acknowledge any role climate change may have played in last October’s mega-storm.
The governor said Monday that his administration would review pre-hurricane decisions made by various departments and agencies including NJ TRANSIT, but that “getting people back in their homes” was a higher priority.
The six-month study will look into the feasibility and the price tag of the microgrid.
The federal and state governments are partnering with Sandia National Laboratories, a microgrid designer for the military, on a conceptual design.
The Oct. 29 storm knocked out power to more than five million users, severely flooded the Hoboken rail station and caused hundreds of millions in damage to rail cars that had been moved to low-lying storage yards.
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