Three years after a malfunction on a Superstorm Sandy-damaged escalator injured several people at a PATH station, the agency that operates the rail line said it will replace all three of the units -- two years from now.

PATH train (Andrew Burton, Getty Images)

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey voted Thursday to approve a $62 million project that will install three new escalators in Jersey City's Exchange Place station that were heavily damaged by flooding from Sandy in October 2012.

The escalators, which were installed in 1989 and rise 77 feet from the platform to street level, have been plagued by problems since, Clarelle DeGraffe, PATH's deputy director, told the board Thursday.

The worst came during the morning commute on Jan. 7, 2013 when an ascending escalator suddenly reversed direction, causing some people to jump off in mid-ride. Witnesses described a stampede at the base of the escalator. Several people had to be taken to the hospital with scratches, cuts and bruises.

Maintenance logs provided by the Port Authority to The Associated Press in response to a public records request showed there were ongoing issues even in the 21 months before Sandy.

In addition to routine monthly maintenance, there were 17 instances of repairs defined as "non-routine," including to replace broken steps and troubleshoot a fault in a safety circuit.

Until the escalators are replaced, DeGraffe couldn't rule out a repeat of the January 2013 malfunction.

"The risk is there," she told the board. "We're just not sure."

Port Authority officials said Thursday the project will begin in early 2018 and be completed by late summer or early fall. The Federal Transit Administration is picking up about half of the $62 million price tag, and the Port Authority is seeking an additional grant that would increase that to about 90 percent of the total cost.

Asked why it will be nearly six years after Sandy before the escalators are replaced, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye said the decision to replace them "was made some time ago."

"There's a process and we're working through it, and we expect to be 90 percent funded," Foye said.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

 

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