Rebuild by Design: Hoboken -- Transportation Elements

The Hoboken Rebuild by Design project proposal uses a combination of urban water management strategies to protect Hoboken, New Jersey, including the region’s transportation hubs, from flash floods and storm surge. Hoboken is a low-elevation, high-density urban environment on the west bank of the Hudson River that was severely flooded in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern coast of the U.S. The project uses a combination of flood defenses, green infrastructure (such as green roofs, constructed wetlands, rain gardens), and stormwater pumps to increase the city’s resilience to flooding. The proposal was designed to prepare the city for future climate changes impacts and includes components designed to protect transportation infrastructure from Impacts.  Critical transportation facilities (such as New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Station, Hoboken Terminal, and NJ PATH stations) are located along the Hudson River or are within the city’s 100-year floodplain. The concept for the project was designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) as part of the Rebuild by Design competition launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in June 2013.

Hoboken is very vulnerable to flooding.  During Sandy storm surge from the Hudson River breached the shoreline at two locations: the Hoboken Cove to the north and the Long Slip Canal to the south.  Both locations house critical transportation assets including rail stations and ferry terminals.  Additionally, two-thirds of the city lies within the FEMA 100-year flood zone with dense development along unprotected shorelines of the Hudson River.  The City is also heavily developed and 94% of the city is covered with impervious surfaces, which exacerbates flooding from intense rain events.

In close proximity to Manhattan, the city is heavily reliant on the region’s transit system and Hoboken is home to several commuter rail lines and stations – the NJ PATH and NJ Transit.  An estimated 56% of residents use public transportation daily.  Hoboken Station, a major transportation hub in the region, is exposed to storm surges and vulnerable to flood impacts. OMA estimated that Hurricane Sandy caused about $125 million in damage to the station’s infrastructure and trains. The NJ PATH train that provides commuter services to Manhattan was closed for 3 weeks after the storm causing economic losses to the city.  Hoboken Terminal is a major transportation hub for the greater Manhattan metropolitan region. It is a transportation hub for nine commuter rail lines, rapid transit and a ferry terminal and is used by more than 50,000 people daily. The Rebuild by Design project took into account how climate change will increase precipitation, storm events, and flooding in the Hoboken region and will increase risks to key transportation facilities.

The proposal includes multiple lines of defense (resist, delay, store, and discharge) to protect development and critical transportation assets from current and future flood risks:

  • The resist components of the project include both soft and hard coastal defenses to protect critical transportation assets, such as the Hoboken Station, from storm surge. Flood defenses will be built to protect against the 500-year flood event. The project also calls for the creation of nature-based coastal defenses through restoration of Weehawken Cove, a wetland park which will integrate armorer levees and bulkheads with wetlands restoration to provide natural and gray flood defenses.  These features will protect the Hoboken Terminal along with other city assets along its northern shoreline. 
  • The store and delay components of the project call for broad deployment of green infrastructure measures to manage and store excess rainwater and manage stormwater. Green infrastructure will be deployed through design guidelines and best management practices, demonstration projects, and incentive plan, and a “Green Street Steward Program.”  These components of the project leveraged planning and financial support from Sustainable Jersey, Together North Jersey and low interest loans offered by the state.
  • The discharge component of the project calls for the installation of stormwater pumps that can be used to remove excess stormwater from the system.

OMA estimates that its strategy if implemented could reduce Hoboken’s current flood risk, with $750 million in assets at risk, to $118 million. The Hoboken proposal was one of the winners of the Rebuild by Design competition, and the State of New Jersey was awarded $230 million from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (“CDBG-DR”) program to implement portions of the proposal. With the amount of funding awarded, the State plans to prioritize construction of the “resist” component of the proposal, and construct some of the “delay,” “store,” and “discharge” components if budget allows. As of early 2016, the project is undergoing an engineering feasibility study and environmental review to evaluate alternatives for different alignments of the “resist” component; these review processes are expected to be completed in late 2016 and spring of 2017, respectively.

In addition to the CDBG-DR funding to implement the Rebuild by Design proposal for Hoboken, the State of New Jersey and City of Hoboken can leverage other investments and funding sources that will increase overall resilience in Hoboken. For example, NJ Transit received a $146 million grant from the FTA  to fill Long Slip, a former barge canal adjacent to Hoboken terminal and the rail yard, and to add new elevated tracks on the filled area. Long Slip provided a conduit for storm surge to enter Hoboken during Hurricane Sandy, so the Long Slip project will help protect other infrastructure in Hoboken while also allowing NJ Transit to operate its trains longer and more quickly after storm events. 


This Adaptation Clearinghouse entry was prepared with support from the Federal Highway Administration. This entry was last updated on March 31, 2016.

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Publication Date: June 2014

Related Organizations:

  • State of New Jersey
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Case study

States Affected:


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