The MTA twitter account broke the news first, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office put out the press release trumpeting the return of full A train service to the Rockaways a full month early. A train service across Broad Channel and into the Rockaways will begin again on Thursday, May 30, seven months since Sandy swept away the subway tracks and just in time for the summer beach season.
As part of the restoration efforts, the MTA had to rebuild 1500 feet of washed-out tracks, replace miles of signal, power and communications wires, and rehab two stations that were completely flooded by the storm surge. Additionally, crews buried a two-mile-long corrugated marine steel sheet wall 30 feet into the soil along Jamaica Bay to “to protect the track against future washouts and ensure the line is ready to handle future coastal storms.” (For more on what the MTA had to do to repair the damage, check out this laundry list of projects complete with photos.)
“Superstorm Sandy devastated the entire MTA network like no other storm, but the MTA did a remarkable job of restoring service following the storm and at the end of this month, the A line in the Rockaways will be up and running,” Governor Cuomo said. “The last six months have meant substantial cleanup and repair, leading to the rapid restoration of full service in all but the hardest-hit facilities. Now we must focus on the priority and challenge of making permanent repairs to keep the subways safe and reliable for years to come because the people and businesses of New York depend on a strong and robust mass transit system. The difficult work of rebuilding the system to be stronger and more resilient has just begun, but we will build back better and smarter than before.”
The surprise announcement, nearly a month early, came as the MTA unveiled a series of flood-mitigation measures. The agency demonstrated an inflatable tunnel plug near South Ferry and plans to implement these plugs at vulnerable spots throughout the system. Additionally, Cuomo and the MTA announced a Sandy Recovery and Resiliency Division which will manage the years-long, billion-dollar recovery effort. This new division will oversee efforts to protect stations, fan plants, under-river tubes, tunnels, ground-level tracks, signals, train shops and yards, traction power substations, circuit breaker houses, bus depots, train towers and public areas vulnerable to flooding. The first assessments are due in July.
For the MTA and, more importantly, the Rockaways, this announcement is a major milestone in the Sandy recovery efforts. One of the hardest hit areas is going to see its subway line reconnected to the rest of the system, and the only remaining outage is centered around the new South Ferry station. Still, from what I’ve heard, repair efforts will be extensive and may include some long-term service outages in some of the more badly damaged tunnels. The MTA has not yet commented (or firmly established) these plans.