For South Ferry, mitigation and a new signal roomBy
When last I saw the new South Ferry station, it was in tatters. I journeyed into the station this past February, nearly four months after Sandy, and it was a ghost town. Mud, dirt and leaves washed in by the floodwaters marred the station while soggy ceiling panels still lay on the floor of the totaled control room. The signal system was fried, and it was clear it would take a long time for the MTA to restore service to the station.
On Monday, we learned that the MTA is targeting mid-2016 for the station’s revival. In a presentation to the MTA Board’s Capital Program Oversight Committee, Vice President & Program Executive John O’Grady discussed the station’s immediate future and the long-term plans for protecting the signal room. Eventually, the work may stretch on for the better part of the remainder of the decade and could involve yet another fight over part of Battery Park.
During his presentation, O’Grady focused first on the immediate needs. Revenue service is expected to resume in June of 2016, and the MTA is still eying $600 million, all in Sandy recovery funds from the federal government, as the project’s budget. The work will involve essentially stripping out everything from the station and rebuilding it from the shell up. And yes, included in this work will be a renewed focus on leak mitigation, a problem that needed solving since the day the new South Ferry station opened.
As far as timing goes, the MTA plans to start the bid process in early 2014. The demolition package will be advertised in January, and the station complex work will be advertised in February. The key focus though will be on protecting the signal relay room as its importance extends well beyond the South Ferry station. Where it will end up is anyone’s guess.
The immediate problem with South Ferry, besides its vulnerability to flooding, is the above-ground land use. There isn’t much free space, and a large portion of the southern tip of Manhattan is devoted to parkland that nearby neighbors defend with their lives (and their lawyers). The MTA ran into some issues regarding tree removal during the initial construction of the new South Ferry station, and now the agency is again proposing to take some parkland for transit uses.
According to O’Grady’s presentation, the MTA will engage in interim flood remediation efforts for the South Ferry signal relay, including submarine-style doors that can effectively protect electrical equipment in the face of an incoming storm. But to ensure the signals are safe, they have to be constructed above ground. To that end, the MTA has proposed a series of locations, some of which are in Battery Park, that are protected and near enough to key switches to remain effective. To build an above-ground room with proper relay equipment could take until 2019.
For now, the relocated signal room is a plan but not a definite one. The MTA will move ahead with its underground fortifications and will stockpile spare parts in the event of another flood. One way or another, the effects of Sandy will linger well into the second half of the decade, and we’ll keep crossing our fingers that another storm doesn’t sweep through while all this work is underway.