Home Asides Report: Rockaway subway service out until mid-2013

Report: Rockaway subway service out until mid-2013

by Benjamin Kabak

Although the MTA hasn’t quite put the final touches on its cost estimates for Sandy-related repairs, a report today indicated that full A train service to the Rockaways may not return until at least the middle of next year. In a story low on details, New York 1’s Michael Herzenberg says that an MTA source believes summer 2013 is a potential target date for the reconstruction of the Broad Channel subway line. I almost wonder if even that estimate is optimistic.

According to preliminary documents, the MTA has requested $650 million for the restoration of the Rockaway subway line. Even if some of that money is invested in preventative measures, a multi-hundred-million-dollar spend usually takes years to complete, not mere months. It is nearly impossible, in fact, to spend $650 million on one project in six or seven months. Perhaps the MTA believes it can perform repairs that allow limited direct subway service while the remainder of the work continues. Either way, it’s going to be a while before commutes to and from the Rockaways return to normal.

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David Brown November 29, 2012 - 10:53 am

I am originally from Queens, and I dreaded that H Train (Later A Train)Bridge to The Rockaways, because the train always stopped in the middle of Jamaica Bay because of the age of the Bridge. Based on the Culver Viaduct and the length of time reopening Smith & 9th st (8 months and counting past due), the Rockaways will be lucky to have service in mid-2014.

Jerrold November 29, 2012 - 4:04 pm

This reminded me of the weekly E-mails that I receive concerning the weekend subway changes.
The one about the F train has always said for a long time now that Smith-9th St. will be closed “until Fall 2012”. It is STILL saying that same thing every week, even though Fall 2012 is almost over (calendar-wise), and IS already over, temperature-wise.

Frank B November 29, 2012 - 11:01 am

Perhaps this will give them an opportunity to upgrade the speed of the bridge to true IND Speeds; There is no reason that the A train should be going that slow going across Jamaica Bay. I realize there would be a higher chance of derailment at higher speeds, and derailing into Jamaica Bay would be a horrific nightmare, however, this can be solved with today’s advanced technology… Say a concrete barrier.

Spendmore Wastemore November 29, 2012 - 9:16 pm

Yeah, and take out the wiggle as the train approaches Howard Beach.

Regarding the trestle, the chance that the train will
Immediately take a sharp turn of its own accord (laws of physics be damned)
Cross the inner retention rails
Cross either one or three running rails
Cross a couple third rails
…and go for a swim
are about zero.

It’s also time to take out the stop-and-look to be sure the lift bridge is down before proceeding, every time. You don’t stop when you drive over such a bridge at 70mph, something with signals, track sensors and automatic stop arms sure doesn’t need that.

Perhaps Ben can bring this up when speaking to MTA?

Someone December 4, 2012 - 11:10 pm

I don’t think that the R46s will normally operate that fast…

Josh K November 29, 2012 - 11:15 am

It’s actually pretty easy to spend $650M when you’re doing everything by emergency, no-bid contracts and have a VERY compressed timeline. If you want stuff done very quickly for a public sector construction project, in NYC, you’re going to spend a lot of money very quickly. Especially if you’re re-building a bridge from scratch. Large emergency contracts are very rare, especially for the MTA. It will be interesting to see if they can pull this off.

al November 30, 2012 - 1:59 am

The NYCTA managed to pull off the reconstruction on the 1 between Chambers St and Rector St ahead of schedule and at >$500 million/mile.

al November 30, 2012 - 1:59 am

It should read <$500 million/mile

Kevin November 29, 2012 - 1:06 pm

I wonder if someone can paperclip the reactivation of the Rockaway Branch to this emergency work.

skunky November 29, 2012 - 9:06 pm

Here’s a stupid question: do enough people use the A train from the Rockaways to justify this price tag? I mean, if you had $650 million to spend elsewhere, such as a 10th Ave/42nd St station?

If the Franklin Ave Shuttle fell down overnight, would we replace that, too?

Spendmore Wastemore November 29, 2012 - 9:29 pm

1. No

2. Shhhh, notsuposta question Federal dollars coming our way, though they may be getting tossed in the sea.

It would be cheaper and perhaps better to do alternate service.

– Keep the free shuttle along the Rockaways, from which people can catch the bus to Brighton Beach and the B/Q. There’s also the LIRR _one_ block from Mott Ave.
– Then, a small fraction of that $650M could subsidize the ferry to Wall Street for about forever by investing it and running the ferry entirely on the interest.

Eric November 30, 2012 - 12:40 pm

I don’t think it’s worth repairing. In fact, this should be a wake-up call to all year-round residents to leave. The Rockaways are a barrier island, not a place to live.

Rob Stevens November 30, 2012 - 2:07 pm

Actually, an excellent question, if not a pc one.

I found the bus to move along quite well in Brd Channel.

Larry Littlefield November 30, 2012 - 2:53 pm

I considered the quesiton here.


What could the MTA do with the operating deficit for that line, in terms of express buses and BRT? Could it move as many people better and more cheaply, or would too many buses be required? Would Rockaway residents like it better?

Nathanael November 30, 2012 - 5:58 pm

Some comments on your excellent and interesting blog entry:

“Already, property insurance companies are requiring large deductibles for hurricanes, and are refusing to issue new policies in “coastal counties,” including all of Brooklyn.”
Boy — that’s overkill. There are large parts of Brooklyn which are perfectly insurable (mostly the parts which were settled really early, like Brooklyn Heights). I hope the insurance companies get more *specific* with their denials.

Larry Littlefield November 30, 2012 - 7:34 pm

I know this from experience. Even as a renewal, the insurance company wanted a $10,000 deductible for hurricane. Fine, I said, what about at $10,000 deductable for everything? I have it in savings, and would like a lower premium. They refused.

This year, after Irene, they jacked up the premium — then took it back down to where it was, but with a $10,000 deductable for everything.

Nathanael November 30, 2012 - 6:01 pm

Second comment on your blog entry:
“Most homeowner’s insurance policies will not pay off in cash, but only to rebuild. Why? Out of fear that homeowners in troubled neighborhoods will burn down their own houses to get the cash and to buy houses elsewhere. That is clearly not the case here. I’m not sure the state can require insurance companies to give people that option.”

It can. I think it requires an act of the state legislature, though.

Final comment:
“This other need, the growing need of ordinary people for vacation and recreation closer to home, should be thought about for 15 minutes as well.”

Removing the large permanent construction (houses, etc) and converting the barrier islands back into public beaches, with strictly small-scale or temporary facilities — could work.

Someone December 3, 2012 - 8:20 pm

1. No way. The MTA actually considered shutting the Franklin Shuttle down in the 1990s but it was the community that persuaded them to rebuild it. The MTA probably won’t do the same thing again.

Someone December 3, 2012 - 8:32 pm

2. Developers can raise enough money for a 41st St-10 Av station if they really want it.
3. It’s probably worth rebuilding the viaduct.

D-train November 30, 2012 - 2:28 am

At that cost, and considering the new paradigm shift of resource value, it does seriously beg the question if it’s even worth repairing. Though, no politician or bureaucrat will ever discuss this.

Bigger issue is if with climate change, the one natural barrier we have against these storm surges are undeveloped barrier islands, like the Rockaways sans current development. Instead of spending millions/billions on channel/surge blocks, why not return the islands to their original purpose as determined by ecology, natural barriers against major tidal/storm surges.

Nathanael November 30, 2012 - 5:54 pm

Yep. Banning permanent habitation on the barrier islands would suddenly give the area some giant storm protection.

Larry Littlefield November 30, 2012 - 7:39 pm

Trouble is, where do you put the 100,000 people? Or even half of them.

The NY area is pretty full up.

Urban Omnibus » Roundup – Co-op City, A Cloud of Bottles, Parking and Culture in Downtown Brooklyn, Atlantic Yards Prefab, Post-Sandy Updates and Upcoming Events November 30, 2012 - 6:08 pm

[…] 2009 renovation costs) and $650 million to restore subway service to the Rockaways (which may not be complete until the middle of next year) — all of which would fund repair of the existing system, and would not go towards any strategies […]

Ron Aryel December 1, 2012 - 3:25 am

Actually, Ben, you ignore the Rockaway Line’s simplicity in your estimate of years to reconstruct. The destroyed part of the route hs only one station on it (Broad Channel). Otherwise you’re reconstructing a viaduct. You can get a viaduct erected in six or seven months without a problem.

Andrew December 4, 2012 - 10:28 pm

Aside from the two lift bridges, the line in question runs on the surface. There is no viaduct. From the photos, it looks like much of the line was largely destroyed.

Larry Littlefield December 1, 2012 - 8:30 am

From Under the Sidewalks of New York, New York City purchased the Rockaway Branch from the LIRR in June 1953 for $8.5 million, and was completed reconstruction (including the connection to the A train) in June 1956.

The total price of the purchase plus reconstruction was $56 million, so perhaps $47.5 million for reconstruction alone. Inflating 1956 to 2012 dollars per BLS that is $404 million.

One of the most expensive parts of the project is presumably the signal system. According to a table I have, the signals were last installed in 1954 and include three (expensive) interlockings. The way NYCT has been gouged lately the signal system could be $400 million by itself. I had wondered if anyone would question whether it was worth maintaining the line when that massive expense came up. But it if were federal disaster relief money…

NYCT has an official useful life of a signal system of 50 years, including obsolescence. But during its history it has been replacing signals at a 60 year rate. Except that ongoing normal replacement stopped in the 1970s, during a fiscal crisis we are about to repeat. As a result large parts of the IND have signal systems that are more than 75 years old, considered the outer limit. My guess is that the MTA has included a full signal replacement in the cost of rebuilding the line.

Larry Littlefield December 1, 2012 - 8:31 am

Also, it is possible that the three interlockings, the most expensive parts of a signal project, were in fact swamped by the storm. That alone would inflate the cost of construction.

Someone December 3, 2012 - 7:34 pm

I think the Hammels Wye interlockings are operational, given the fact that the H train is able to use them.


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