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Schumer: Feds to provide $3.7B in Sandy aid to transit agencies

A photo from the MTA's Flickr stream shows

A photo from the MTA's Flickr stream shows damage on New York City subway's A line to the Rockaways. (Oct. 30, 2012) Credit: MTA/Flikr

The federal government will provide $3.7 billion in superstorm Sandy aid to the MTA and other transit providers in the region, including $1.3 billion that must be spent on hardening systems to protect them from future storms, Sen. Charles Schumer announced Thursday.

The Federal Transit Authority funds will be split among the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York City Department of Transportation and the Port Authority. The MTA will get the biggest chunk of the money -- $2.6 billion, according to Schumer.

"We pulled out all the stops when crafting the Sandy aid bill to make sure our mass transit systems, the arteries of the region, are fully repaired and built stronger than they were before, and this transfusion of billions of dollars will allow us to do just that," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

A Schumer spokesman said more funding is on the way, and that the $3.7 billion represents the minimum amount that transit agencies can expect. The package also includes the first bit of funding specifically dedicated "for project elements or freestanding projects that increase the resiliency of the affected transit systems to future disasters," according to Schumer's office.

Of the $2.6 billion going to the MTA, about $900 million will be dedicated for hardening. The MTA, which has reported about $5 billion in Sandy damages, has already begun strengthening its transit system for future storms, including plans for customized covers to seal off entry ways to subway stations.

"We are grateful for the federal assistance we have received in order to move forward with vital projects to keep the subways safe and reliable for years to come," said Thomas F. Prendergast, MTA interim executive director.

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency also announced a change in policy that could save Sandy-struck local governments millions of dollars.

FEMA will reimburse 90 percent of the cost for approved emergency work and repairs or replacement for Sandy-damaged facilities -- upping the amount from the previous 75 percent.

The change comes after New York State exceeded the FEMA-established threshold of $2.5 billion in federal Sandy-related spending to qualify for the new funding formula.

The remaining 10 percent nonfederal share may be met by local governments, the state, or a combination of both.

"By reaching this federal funding threshold for post-storm recovery costs, the financial impact will be lowered considerably for the nonfederal share of repairing and restoring our communities," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.

With Sarah Crichton

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