Cranberry, Rutgers tubes up next as Penn Station Access heads Sandy wishlist


The A/C train’s Cranberry Tube was flooded during Superstorm Sandy. (MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins)

It’s been nearly 18 months since Hurricane Sandy swept through New York City, and while its impact is less visible now than it was a year ago, our transit system is both still suffering and in need of investment ahead of the next storm. We have six months to go before the R train’s Montague St. tube reopens and work on the G train wraps, and we now know what’s next and what the MTA wants.

According to a report on Tuesday by NY1’s Jose Martinez, the next tubes to close will be the Eight Ave. line’s Cranberry St. Tunnel and the F train’s Rutgers St. tunnel. The specific details aren’t available yet, but the closures will focus around weekends and won’t begin until the R train is back in service. The work is set to cost around $50 million and will include, according to Martinez, new tracks, signals, lighting, pump room and communications infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the MTA is making its move for a share of federal funding for Sandy recover and storm resiliency projects. A few months ago, the federal government announced approximately $3 billion in resiliency funding available for the areas affected by Sandy. Application grants were due last Friday, and the region has requested more than the available amounts. According to a release detailing the funding request, “the state’s applications exceed available federal funding because the projects represent the extensive need New York faces in trying to protect its vital infrastructure.”

“Our response to the billions in damage Superstorm Sandy caused our transportation system is to build back stronger, better and smarter than before,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release announcing the application. “These projects build on the State’s commitment to transforming our infrastructure, transportation networks, energy supply, and coastal protections to better protect New Yorkers from future disaster.”

Interestingly, as had been reported over the past few months, the lead request is for the Penn Station Access project, not called the Penn Station Access Network Resiliency. The Governor’s office and MTA estimate that this project would cost around $516 million with the feds potentially contributing $387 million to the cost. Ostensibly, the project “would give Metro-North an alternate means to enter midtown Manhattan if its four-track main line through the Bronx or the Harlem River Lift Bridge were ever disrupted for a prolonged period.” But it’s been around for a while. Billing it as a resiliency plan is an interesting twist.

For the MTA, the other key projects include a river-to-river resiliency effort that would fortify the Amtrak and LIRR tubes into and out of the city as well as various flood control and hardening efforts. The MTA’s requests clock in at a total of $3.87 billion, $2.904 billion of which the feds could fund.

The other big-ticket requests came from the Port Authority. As part of their grant request, they’ve asked for help building a $400 million auxiliary bus terminal on 39th St. DNA Info had more details on that request. The annex would serve as a backup bus terminal and overflow parking space that could be used in the event of an emergency. If the funding comes through, it could be open by 2020.

A full list of the various requests is available in this press release. They all need to be built, and somehow, they need to be funded. Now we wait to see what, if any, of the tab the feds will pick up.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy

37 Responses to “Cranberry, Rutgers tubes up next as Penn Station Access heads Sandy wishlist”

  1. afk says:

    How at risk is MetroNorth’s current setup? Did it suffer much damage during Sandy? What probable scenario takes out MetroNorth into GC but doesn’t harm the corridor into Penn? Can anything be done to prevent it? If only there was money available to fund such resiliency efforts. Offering Connecticut riders a one seat ride to Penn station is nice, but won’t be usable during peak hours until 2021(?), but it doesn’t seem like that could be the best use of funds to harden current infrastructure against future storms.

    • For a railroad that has “all of their eggs in one basket” with only one route into Manhattan, they have very little trouble with the Harlem River crossing and the Park Avenue viaduct. There haven’t been many disruptions in recent months where the route along Park Avenue has been the choke point (the Harlem Building explosion and the transformer failure at GCT were the only ones I could think of in recent memory).

      • BoerumBum says:

        I seem to recall the lift bridge getting stuck almost every time they have to lift it for a tanker (which is one of the reasons the canal is so infrequently used these days. Having an alternate path could allow them to work on the bridge without disrupting service.

        • afk says:

          Can’t they work on it at night without disrupting service? Also the penn access Cuomo was pushing helps Connecticut and those on the NH line, but Hudson and Harlem were left out of the project, so they wouldn’t be able to work on the lift bridge during the day without shutting those two lines down.

  2. Roxie says:

    That’s a pretty creative way of getting funding for a project that’d probably just be sitting in the proverbial E.R. waiting room til it died. Can’t say I blame ’em for trying it, even if it fails.

  3. Spendmor Wastemor says:

    A whole flooded tunnel can be fixed for $ 50M, one flooded station costs over $ 500M.

    They should fix that tube well enough for the trains to run full speed this time. It should not take more than 3 minutes to cross the East River, stop to stop.

  4. Alex says:

    I certainly hope they don’t do the Cranberry and Rutgers tubes simultaneously considering they are alternates for each other. It would make much more sense to do one while using the other as a backup for those weekends. Then, when complete, swap. For the F you could run a shuttle between W4 and East Broadway so you could shut the tunnel down in both directions.

    • Jerrold says:

      THAT is exactly what I WAS THINKING.
      They would have to be stupid to do both the IND tunnels at the same time. If only one tunnel is closed at a time, service can be re-routed through the other tunnel between West 4th St. and Jay St.

      • Tower18 says:

        I would imagine they could do something like:

        Manhattan-bound A/C trains over F from Jay to W 4th
        Brooklyn-bound A/C as normal
        Manhattan-bound F as normal
        Brooklyn-bound F trains over A/C from W 4th to Jay

        So they simultaneously close the opposing direction of both tunnels. This would be less painful than a full closure, and wouldn’t require shuttle buses.

        • afk says:

          Is each tunnel a pair of tubes? Or are both tracks right next to each other? Would the workers be able to get everything fixed as quickly or safely if they have trains rolling by every couple minutes?

          • Tower18 says:

            I know I saw somewhere that Cranberry is 2 separate tunnels. Not sure about Rutgers, but I would assume it was of similar construction since they were built in the same era. I’ve certainly never seen trains passing each other, so even if they’re in the same tube, they’re separated. Just depends what kind of work needs to be done, I suppose.

        • Alex says:

          That also makes good sense. Hopefully they’ll end up doing something like that. As long as they don’t shut down both tunnels simultaneously, but I wouldn’t put it past them. I’ll feel better once they release full details.

        • Michael says:

          If I could re-phrase your idea:

          First Set Of Tunnel Closures:

          – Manhattan-bound A, c, and F trains use the Rutgers Street Tunnel to travel between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
          – Brooklyn-bound A, C, and F trains use the Cranberry Street Tunnel to travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

          – For re-construction work the Brooklyn bound-side of the Rutgers Street Tunnel is closed for repairs.
          – For re-construction work the Manhattan bound-side of the Cranberry Street Tunnel is closed for repairs.


          Second Set Of Tunnel Closures:

          – Manhattan-bound A, c, and F trains use the Cranberry Street Tunnel to travel between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
          – Brooklyn-bound A, C, and F trains use the Rutgers Street Tunnel to travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

          – For re-construction work the Brooklyn bound-side of the Cranberry Street Tunnel is closed for repairs.
          – For re-construction work the Manhattan bound-side of the Rutgers Street Tunnel is closed for repairs.

          In this way all of the stations covered by the A, C and F trains would still have service, and their useful transfers – at the same time that repair work is conducted on the closed tube. If it become necessary to close one of the tunnel tubes, say for example Manhattan-bound Cranberry due to the need for more work, the travel pattern of the trains does not need to be changed.

          The subway signage might become a bit interesting, but probably no more difficult than the usual G.O. that reroutes the A, C and F trains between the two tunnels.


          • John-2 says:

            It would make life easier, but it would likely depend on crews not using one or both platforms at either end of the tunnels as staging areas (though I suppose they could simply set up at the lesser-used/less isolated of the two station — say High St. and East Broadway — and just bypass those stations during the work while keeping Fulton and York open).

            • bigbellymon4 says:

              If you use this senario for weekday service, wouldn’t you interfere with the (M)?

            • alek says:

              Problem is the flaggers at the tube it might slow down service. The speed of the trains have to slow down.

              The problem is the tunnel capacity of handling the trains. Anybody remember the fastrack when the F is rerouted via the A the C service ends early. Same idea when the A ran via the F line.

              • Michael says:

                The basic problem is this – during the rush hours both the Rutgers Street and Cranberry Tunnel are needed. It is generally understood that the highest track and tunnel capacity is 30 trains per hour. With the F-train operating during rush hours at 15 tph, and the combined A and C trains running at about 22 tph (or maybe a bit more) – that combining those trains in the same tunnel, without any schedule adjustments is a major problem.

                Closing one of the tunnels for the complete duration of the project (like in the case of the Montague Street Tunnel) would mean a reduction of rush hour service for two very heavily traveled lines, and the moderately heavy C-train, plus fitting all of the C-train riders on the crowded A-trains is not a good idea. That is why it is proposed that the repair work be done on the weekends – where the impact (while great) might be managed.

                Sending A-trains over the Rutgers Tunnel involves making the A-train local in Manhattan south of 59th Street for the local tracks only switch connections at West 4th Street. Often during such late night and especially on the weekend G.O.’s the A-train often became local in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Over the years there have been plenty of tunnel re-routes of the A-train through the Rutgers Tunnel (for renovating the Fulton Center complex, etc). Such re-routes often lengthened the trip and the complexity of the trip for many of the riders.

                One problem with the A-train re-routes was the skipping of the Fulton Street station and its only transfer between the #4 and #5 lines, and the other lines. Personally those re-routes very much impacted my trips to and from work. Taking convoluted trips to West 4th Street and back added to the travel time getting to work, and easily meant missing one of the hourly ferries on the way home. Using the then downtown only #6 transfer at Bleecker Street was just another set of convoluted trips. I’d often make an “out-of-system” transfer between the R-train and A-train at Jay Street, and before Unlimited Metro-Cards, I paid the extra fare just to avoid all of the hassle. The built transfer between the R and A/C/F trains at Jay Street was a God-send, until Hurricane Sandy, and the closing of the Montague Street Tunnel.

                While the Cranberry and Rutgers Tunnels can in one sense be used as alternative pathways for the other, that does not mean that for the riders the different pathways are equally as useful. They are not.

                Yes, it is very important that the renovation work be done. Just as the closing and repair of the Montague Street Tunnel has impacted the riders even though the trains somehow move – closing one or both of the Rutgers or Cranberry Tunnel will impact the riders.


  5. Having Metro-North trains go to/from New York Penn Station during disruptions can only really work half the time (in the morning). In the morning when trains are in motion and something goes wrong, the trains could be diverted to New York Penn, but Metro-North wouldn’t be able to store any actual equipment in Penn Station (due to the lack of space in Penn Station and the lack of MN equipment), so if something goes wrong in the afternoon, Metro-North has to find equipment elsewhere and get it to Penn Station before they can start taking passengers back out. This can take some time, since the equipment will probably have to come all the way from Stamford, and by time the equipment finally gets to New York Penn, whatever short-term disruption that caused the mess will probably be fixed already.

    • John-2 says:

      If it’s combined with the plans discussed a couple of years ago to put a new station at 60th Street on the West Side line, that would allow MN in an emergency to discharge passengers there without having to take the trains all the way into Penn Station (60th and 11th isn’t exactly the most convenient place in Midtown Manhattan to dump passengers — in fact, it’s probably the worst — but it’s still better than dumping them at Marble Hill or Yankee Stadium).

    • AG says:

      No – there is to be regular service. This has been talked about for years. They are just trying to get federal money to do it – under “resiliency”.

      • lop says:

        Regular service off-peak only until 2023 or possibly later. And they’re asking for more than is available for resiliency efforts. So in 2018 when there is a big storm that shuts down the subway for days and damages the tunnels requiring months long closing later on it’ll be because Cuomo stuck PSA in instead of hardening existing infrastructure.

        • AG says:

          Please explain where you get the impression they won’t be – and aren’t currently – hardening existing infrastructure…..

          Also – is that a prophecy you are telling us that there will be a significant storm of Sandy like impact in 2018?

          All of these things are LONG TERM

          • lop says:

            PSA if funded here would crowd out other projects that reduce the impact of future storms, even without the project the state is asking for more money than is available, and both Cuomo and DeBlasio have shown no interest in making significant investments in transit, especially if the benefits are likely to be invisible during their time in office – as hardening existing infrastructure would be.


            ‘The likely effect, Dr. Emanuel said, is that coastal flooding on a scale that once happened only once or twice per century — the scale of Sandy, in other words — will become much more commonplace within the coming decades.’

            Spending what little money is available to prevent the damage from such a storm on anything else would be criminal. No I’m not predicting a storm in 2018. But I do believe if this opportunity is passed up, and money ostensibly for necessary investments to protect existing infrastructure is used for other projects, that the city will suffer greatly for it.

            Given that ESA is for some reason still about a decade away, there is plenty of time between now and then for a separate funding stream to be set up to pay for PSA, probably a couple years at least, and still have it ready to offer NH service into Penn, assuming LIRR can afford to give up the space.

            • AG says:

              Penn Station Access was in the cards long before Sandy.

              Every single agency is already spending money on resilience. Even Con Ed just had to agree to only gradually raise rates while they spend billions preparing for future events.

              The bottom line is – all these projects on that list are going to get done one way or another. This is all about how much federal money can be had.

              • lop says:

                I don’t know what world you live in, but here funds are limited. Yea PSA has been around for a long time, but hasn’t started for a couple reasons – limited funds, and it offers minimal utility before 2023, not worth the cost until then, and it shouldn’t take five years to construct. Focusing what little funds are now available on something like PSA instead of hardening existing infrastructure to prepare for future weather events is a criminal disservice to the region. Just because you want better transit in co-op city doesn’t change this.

                • AG says:

                  ok – so since you know so much – name one project that is being “sacrificed” in your viewpoint. Which project is solely contingent upon the federal money and won’t happen otherwise? if you can list those – then tell me which is more important in your viewpoint and why.

  6. Alon Levy says:

    …this doesn’t read like a joke.

  7. Larry Littlefield says:

    The picture is some of the best news I’ve seen. The wires are above the water. No wonder they are only proposing weekend closures.

    Hopefully they’ll run more Gs, now that I found that the G and the L or 7 across is not an unworkable alternative to going straight to Manhattan.

    • Eric Brasure says:

      I’m not sure what this means. As an alternative to what?

    • lawhawk says:

      Only some of the wiring is above the water line in that photo Ben included. The boxy structure on the bottom right of the photo is a concrete enclosure for wiring conduits, which can include signal and electric lines.

      The MTA is completely rebuilding the conduit chase for the Montague tunnel because of the damage. Not clear at the moment whether that’s needed for these two tunnels, but they may end up having to do similar work to fix those. It may be that the damage wasn’t as severe because the tunnels were pumped out quicker, so water had less of a chance to soak into the concrete or damage the enclosed wiring, or the conduit was better enclosed in waterproofing.

  8. D in Bushwick says:

    It’s so cute when appointed MTA or Port Authority “officials” come out with their wishlists. It is true repairs and upgrades are a necessary reality.
    But as for the cost and time estimates?
    Just double the time schedule they claim and triple the price tag they say it will cost if you want some more necessary reality.

  9. Tower18 says:

    Well I guess I can forget about more C service for a while!

    • sonicboy678 says:

      Trust me, at this point in time, that’s nothing short of a pipe dream. I’d like more service for the C, as well, but it’s obvious that the MTA has no plans for that.

  10. Beebo says:

    Another bus depot in Manhattan. Better by far to set up a depot on the NJ side of the Washington Bridge, and run rail across on a secondary platform. Because,

    1. If there’s a problem with bus transportation, it likely also is affecting the Lincoln & Holland tunnels.
    2. Who needs a bunch of buses hanging around Hell’s Kitchen, looking for a place to be dispatched from.
    3. No matter what, if they’re going west… If the tunnels are out/questionable, including the train tunnels, then they’ll be taking the bridge. Why not have the fallback terminal be in Jersey?

    • lop says:

      ‘The facility would have direct connections to the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, letting buses bypass city streets entirely.’

      Seems more like it adds to the utility of the current depot. And gets some buses off the streets of Manhattan. Adding in this staging area/garage might make a PM rush XBL feasible. Adding a new rail connection between NYC and NJ while Christie and Cuomo are running things? Not going to happen.

    • Joseph Steindam says:

      To be honest, your logic supports expansion of the GWB Bus terminal instead of another facility on the NJ side of the bridge. The existing terminal has direct connections onto the bridge, and sits near enough to existing transportation.

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