Reimagining New York for a New Reality - Transportation Investments

In January 2014 during the State of the State address, New York’s Governor Cuomo announced a plan to invest $17 billion to rebuild New York’s infrastructure, including transportation systems, more resiliently in light of increasingly frequent extreme weather events. The comprehensive rebuilding program includes major reconstruction of the transit system, renovations to many old bridges, a new extensive weather detection system, and creation of a fuel reserve and backup power for gas stations along critical routes. The broad vision laid out in New York can provide an example of how to incorporate resilience into recovery and rebuilding efforts after presidentially declared disasters, when federal disaster recovery dollars become available to the state. The investments announced include over $7 billion for improvements to protect physical transportation assets.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will utilize $5.1 billion of this funding for a massive overhaul to improve the ability of all facets of the transit system to withstand extreme weather events. This will include protecting more street-level openings, such as stairwells, elevators, and sidewalk vents, with deployable emergency flood covers to prevent floodwater from entering the subway system. Other projects will increase pumping capacity in stations and tunnels, adding mobile deployable pumping equipment and mobile generators to ensure water can be removed more quickly when it enters the system. MTA will also undertake major flood mitigation efforts in rail and bus yards, including hardening perimeters, and improving drainage and pumping capacity. Finally, MTA will also harden and protect specific stations and substations, and increase resiliency of signaling and communications equipment.

The governor also announced investments to improve to airport and bridge assets. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) will use $257 million to increase the resilience of JFK and LaGuardia airports by installing tide gates and drainage, adding emergency generator capacity and elevating fuel facilities, and building a floodwall at LaGuardia. The state also invested $486 million to replace 100 bridges to ensure that they are able to withstand the increases in future extreme weather. Many bridges in New York are prone to repeat flooding that can cause scour, or erosion of the bridge structural support; for more details, see a case study on New York’s bridge scour program.

Investments will also be made to improve emergency management and response, including $47 million for the Fuel NY Initiative and over $18 million for establishment of a state-of-the-art weather detection system. The Fuel NY Initiative is providing grants to help gas stations along critical routes that are now required under state law to install wiring that will allow them install a backup generator when there is a power outage during declared fuel supply emergencies. As part of Fuel NY, New York is also expanding its Strategic Fuel Reserve to help ensure there is adequate gasoline and diesel fuel for emergency responders.

The state’s advanced weather detection system, known as the New York State Mesonet, will have 125 interconnected weather stations to warn emergency responders and the public of extreme weather and flood conditions threatening roads, bridges, and the electric system using real-time data on temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, air pressure, radiation, and soil conditions. It is being designed and will be operated by the University of Albany, with support from the New York Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. Construction for the first 19 stations was approved in July 2015, and all stations are expected to be completed and operational in 2016. Data from the Mesonet will be used to develop predictive models and early warning systems from this network of monitoring stations, which can help emergency managers and first responders act early to protect life and property.

The $17 billion “Reimagining New York for a New Reality” program was announced during Governor Cuomo’s 2014 State of the State address.  It is being funded with state funds and federal disaster recovery money appropriated after Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee – including the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and Federal Transit Administration’s Emergency Relief program. In announcing the program, Governor Cuomo noted that New York had suffered nine presidentially declared disasters since 2011, further indicating that “100-year” storms have become the new norm. Other non-transportation initiatives within the program include $1.4 billion to harden the existing electrical grid and create at least ten microgrids; nearly $2 billion for coastal protection and flood control projects; $650 million for community resilience planning and reconstruction efforts; $1.6 billion to protect and improve wastewater systems; among other investments.


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


Publication Date: January 7, 2014

Related Organizations:

  • State of New York


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  • Best practice
  • Funding program

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