NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A three-block-long concrete casing is under construction, in an effort to preserve a possible right-of-way for two flood-resistant rail tunnels into Penn Station.
Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia said the tunnels would improve the reliability, capacity and resiliency of Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.
The groundbreaking included Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) In May, they announced $185 million in federal superstorm Sandy relief funding for the project.
Work Under Way For Flood-Resitant Tunnels At Penn Station
"Manhattan cannot exist unless you can get on and off the island," Schumer said. "So it's vital. And if we had not done this, it would be over -- game, set, match."
The tunnels themselves will cost $15 billion, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported. It's not clear where the remaining funding will come from.
"Unfortunately, the current budget situation in Washington makes it unlikely that we will be able to increase the funding for critical transportation programs in the near future," Nadler said.
The Sandy storm surge flooded four tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers.
The storm halted Amtrak Northeast Corridor and NJ Transit service into Manhattan for about five days, and also severely hampered Long Island Rail Road service.
Two tunnels were out of commission for months after the storm, so severely damaged that signal cases short-circuited in corrosive flood waters.
The lawmakers are still seeking more funding for Northeast Corridor rail service.
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