The 181st. St. station on the 1 line will be closed until further notice. (Photo courtesy of New York City Transit)
Right now, the prognosis at 181st St. isn’t promising. According to the MTA’s most recent statement, Transit does not anticipate reopening the station to through-trains until at least this weekend, and repairs will take longer than that. Furthermore, the MTA today said that it had known about structural problems with the station, and while the wheels were in motion to fix the problem, a planned construction project was still at least a year away.
According to Transit, a “qualified contractor” is on the scene, and over the next few days, this contractor will construct a protective barrier across the track bed and platform. This barrier is going to be 300 feet long and 32 feet wide and will consist of metal decking and support beams.
With this structure in place, the work will turn to the ceiling, and the contractor will have to inspect the ceiling and remove any loose bricks. After that, construction and preservation — the station, remember, is on the National Register of Historic Places — can begin. Transit is trying to clear the tracks as fast as possible, and while trains could pass through the station soon, my uninformed belief is that the station will remain closed to passengers for a few weeks.
Meanwhile, the real story is embedded in this section of the release:
Despite claims to the contrary, NYC Transit is keenly aware that the ceiling was in need of repair and restoration.
Shielding was installed over the bridge and funding was proposed in the MTA Capital Plan amendment submitted in summer of 2008 to address the ceiling condition. A Master Plan for remediation and repair of a significant portion of the ceiling façade was completed in April, and the design process was started this past June by design consultants/Architects John di Domenico & Partners LP. Funding for the work, provided for in the 2005 – 2009 MTA Capital Program, was approved by the State Legislature this past Friday.
Design work is scheduled to be completed by December and the award of a construction contract is planned for early 2010. In addition, there are two other stations (168th Street 1 and 181st Street on the A) with a similar design, but only 168th Street features a brick ceiling. The consultant contract for the 181st Street ceiling will be expanded to include inspection of the 168th Street station as well. It should be noted that all NYC Transit tunnels and elevated structures are inspected on a yearly basis.
In The Times today, Jim Dwyer looks at the tortured history of the 181st St. ceiling, and Transit spokesman Charles Seaton explained the process to him. “It was identified as a localized failure in 2007,” Seaton said. “Certainly, that prompted our interest in further inspecting and repairing that ceiling.”
Transit knew about the problem and had put a plan in motion to fix the problem. However, because the MTA’s budget and construction problem moves at a snail’s pace, it would have taken nearly two years to repair a dangerous situation. Something has to give. This time, it was the ceiling; next time, it should be the process.