Home Queens Rockaways A train service to return May 30

Rockaways A train service to return May 30

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA will restore service over these tracks, washed out during Sandy, on May 30.

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.

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Andy May 16, 2013 - 11:48 am

Wow that is a lot sooner then I thought they had said. Great news for the summer and I imagine a huge relief for the people living there. Now for the totally not important question: are they going to keep the shuttle as the H train?

Frank B May 16, 2013 - 2:56 pm

I truly hope they do.

Brian May 16, 2013 - 3:46 pm

On the Tunnel plugs, they dont prevent flooding, they just move the flood to another location. For example had they been in the Montague street tunnel, the water still made it down the stairs of the station, so while the plug wouldve kept it out of the under rver unnel it wouldve all have still been in the whtehall station, while a plug would work for motor vehicle tunnels like the Battery tunnel it is not a good fix for the subway tunnels.

g May 16, 2013 - 3:56 pm

There are places in the systems it could be very useful but of course the plug isn’t a cure all for every situation. Vent shafts, vulnerable tunnel portals, and other similar potential ingress points come immediately to mind.

Low lying stations and street level gratings will require their own individual solutions.

Justin Samuels May 18, 2013 - 1:02 am

There is no way to make the system flood proof. Simple rains let in a lot of water to the system. The system cannot be airtight as it requires ventilation.

So what happened during the next bad storm? They’ll have to pump flooded tunnels again and do repair work, plain and simple.

John-2 May 16, 2013 - 4:36 pm

Lower South Ferry needs a drain as much or more than it needs a plug. They can plug the track entrance south of Rector, but without also hermetically sealing the South Ferry entrances and vents, you’re not going to stop water from seeking it’s own level. And as long as there’s no outlet for the water at lower SF, the water’s always going starting trying to seek it’s own level at the lowest point in the Battery area.

Nynand8 May 16, 2013 - 5:22 pm

Alas, the sump pumps that all low-lying MTA properties have do not work when the power goes out – and the power grid is not surge resistant.

John-2 May 16, 2013 - 6:29 pm

Emergency natural gas-fired pump. Diesel if they have to, but all other stations in the flood zones have some sort of drain, usually via the cross-river tunnels, like Whitehall and Bowling Green. Lower South Ferry has no outlet, and if below the cross-river tunnels in the area, so it will continue to be the place sought out first by water to settle during any similar situation to last October.

Nick Ober May 16, 2013 - 6:42 pm

A set of well maintained, gas powered sump pumps has to be cheaper than rebuilding South Ferry every few years. Especially as Sandy-type storms become more common in the years ahead.

Phantom May 17, 2013 - 9:27 pm

We’ll see just how common they become.

There have been much bigger storms than Sandy in the last century or two

Justin Samuels May 18, 2013 - 1:04 am

Yes. A system of gas or diesel maintained pumps are what’s needed on the location. And they can work in conjunction with the pump trains……

Nyland8 May 18, 2013 - 11:16 am

Allow me to state the obvious. Pumps are for removing flood waters after the flooding – emphasis on the word A*F*T*E*R. There are no pumps – NONE – that can compete with an incoming ocean, and there are no sumps – NONE – that can contain an ocean. Given the size and number of entrances, and given the size and number of open sidewalk vents, there is simply NO realistic way to prevent flooding by using sumps and pumps. Period.

Moreover, the only place that can contain the water being pumped out of a subway tunnel spanning the East River or the Hudson is the ocean – which means that pumping doesn’t start until after the event – when the surge waters have subsided, and the damage of salt water exposure is already done. If your open entrances and open vents are at sidewalk elevation, and your sidewalk is under two feet of water, then your subway is flooded. Period.

What that means is that the only way to prevent flooding in the subway is to either raise every entrance and vent above anticipated surge height (above Zone 3 or 4 elevation for example) – OR – harden every entrance and vent with plugs and covers – OR – some combination of the two.

Given that our weather forecasting skills have steadily improved over the decades, and we’re likely to have plenty of advanced warning for anything short of a tsunami, it makes sense to identify every at-risk entrance and vent, custom fit a plug or cover, test them, drill work crews in installation procedures, and time them so we know exactly how long it takes to realistically harden the system against an advancing storm surge. We might discover, for example, that places like the South Ferry stations must be closed 36 hours before a predicted high-water event. That’s a small sacrifice to save the station and all the at-risk components, electronic and otherwise, throughout the tunnel. “An ounce of prevention … ”

Nobody is going to approve, fund and build the infrastructure required to stop the onrushing ocean against low-lying areas of the entire city in our lifetimes. But inflatable plugs and sealed covers for at-risk tunnels and stations would seem to be realistic pursuits and achievable goals to protect the system against predicable day-long surge events.

Given what’s at stake, we should be smart enough to do that.


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