Home Superstorm Sandy Video: Inside the Montague St. Tunnel

Video: Inside the Montague St. Tunnel

by Benjamin Kabak

Ever wondered what it’s like to deconstruct and rebuild a 93-year-old tunnel? Well, wonder no longer, and instead watch the latest from MTA videographer J.P. Chan. The tunnel, as you will recall, was completely flooded during Superstorm Sandy, and the MTA has taken it out of service for 14 months to rebuild the Brooklyn-Manhattan link.

Chan’s video is our first glimpse at the work in progress. Currently, crews are going through the to-do list of the first which encompasses repairs to all right-of-way components including significant work to tracks, tunnel lighting, circuit breaker houses, power substations, pump rooms, fan plant, power cable and ducts. The second contract will involve a rebuild of the signal system.

Anyway, take a look at the footage. It’s certainly a mess down there as the fixing and fortifying continues. (And in case you’ve forgotten, here’s a video of Montague prior to the start of construction.)

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Nathanael October 22, 2013 - 1:58 pm

Surprisingly uninformative narration. What exactly is being done? Chipping out masonry cable ducts, I think, mostly?

Simon October 22, 2013 - 3:25 pm

Looks like they’re breaking up crumbling terra cotta duct banks and concrete benchwall, chipping concrete tunnel lining down to the cast iron rings, and replacing everything electrical.

Nathanael October 25, 2013 - 12:48 am

Thanks. It was really left very unclear exactly what was being done with all those jackhammers.

Kai B October 22, 2013 - 10:58 pm

Unfortunately the MTA seems to have switched to only uploading films for the media instead of the general public. That’s why there are five or six clips of the gentleman saying the same thing, followed by many minutes of no commentary.

David Brown October 22, 2013 - 2:29 pm

Nathanael, Narration is not necessary. That tunnel is a disaster area and everyone should pray that another Sandy does not hit until each and every tunnel is repaired and fortified. The only question I have ( and this is NOT being from a critical perspective), strictly from an engineering one, what can actually be done, to lessen the impact of such storms going forward?

John-2 October 22, 2013 - 3:15 pm

Raising/relocating the vent houses was one of the things mentioned — even though it’s the oldest of the East River tunnels, the vent house for the Joralemon Street Tunnel, sitting uphill from the river amid other Brooklyn Heights brownstones, seems to have provided the 4/5 trains with a better level of protecting than the other tunnels passing beneath the Heights, where the Brooklyn-side vents were placed at or near the river level.

Nets Cowbell Guy October 22, 2013 - 2:53 pm

Any update on South Ferry Terminal reconstruction?

Spendmore Wastemore October 22, 2013 - 3:53 pm

Is anything being done to make it water resistant? Inevitably, it will flood again, perhaps in a different way. Since it’s seawater it kicks the cr-p outta equipment, so seawater has to be kept out of said equipment. At least some of the stuff can be made waterproof, are they doing this?

Spamalot October 22, 2013 - 4:19 pm

Are you kidding? It’s probably one tenth as expensive to keep water out of the tunnel in the first place than to build it so it can fill to the brim again, but still have all the submerged components emerge unscathed.

Kevin Zeng October 22, 2013 - 5:10 pm

What about Montague Tunnel connect to Nassau Street Line.

John-2 October 22, 2013 - 10:02 pm

The last few minutes of the video focuses on the area at the split between the Broadway and Nassau Street lines, and near the very end you can see the high-intensity lighting along the Nassau Street section, so it’s safe to assume both routes are being taken care of, even if the section from the split to Broad Street is non-revenue service trackage for now.

Phantom October 22, 2013 - 5:36 pm

I found this interesting. They’re doing something down there.

Hurry up guys, transferring at Jay St or Court St is a minor pain.

Kevin P. October 22, 2013 - 5:44 pm

Someone on a message board said that the R runs over the bridge on weekends for reasons necessary to facilitate tunnel repair, like for moving or staging equipment. Does anyone here anyone know if that’s true?

Patrick @ The LIRR Today October 22, 2013 - 6:27 pm

The (R ) does indeed run via the Manhattan Bridge weekends to allow for equipment staging at Court Street.

D in Bushwick October 22, 2013 - 5:49 pm

There are several East River tunnel tubes. Why won’t all the other flooded tunnels require a total shutdown and rebuild?
Or will they…

Patrick @ The LIRR Today October 22, 2013 - 6:28 pm

They might, hopefully they won’t, but they might…

Nathanael October 25, 2013 - 12:49 am

Most of them will. Some of them were flooded for longer than others and some of them were not flooded to the ceiling, so some will require more work than others.

The Montague St. tunnel got hit the hardest, apparently.

Chris C October 22, 2013 - 6:58 pm

Depends on the individual tunnel and the work needed on it.

They are managing to do the works on the Greenpoint tunnels with weekend work only (and I think a two week closure next year)


But yes there will be either full closures or extensive weekend works over the next few years affecting all the tunnels

Abba October 23, 2013 - 1:16 am

I wonder if Jeoroleman would have G-d forbid been as flooded as Montague if they would have taken it out of service for 14 months

Chris C October 23, 2013 - 10:19 am

Surely if that is the quickest, cheapest and safest way of doing the necessary work then yes it should be taken out of service.

But it would depend on the level of the damage and the scale of the works involved and if delaying the work would not cause further long term damage that puts the tunnel at risk.

Chris C October 24, 2013 - 9:16 am

Just to be clear I was referring to tunnels in general not any specific one – don’t know all the details about specific damage in specific tunnels.

Spamalot October 23, 2013 - 12:33 pm

Here’s a quote from Clarence Facey, an inspector on one of the 20 teams sent out after Hurricane Sandy to inspect the under-river tunnels: “there was no water in the Joralemon tunnel”.

Apparently, according an article in this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (already on line), the “old-fashioned pneumatic pumps” in the original IRT tunnels did not fail the way much of the more modern equipment did.

Nathanael October 25, 2013 - 1:04 am

That’s pretty awesome. Perhaps they should install some more of those old-fashioned pneumatic pumps.

I wonder if the Clark St. Tunnels (also “original IRT tunnels”, though a few years newer) have the same pneumatic pumps.

The Rutgers St. Tunnel was apparently flooded to the roof and hard to pump out, so it will probably require a complete closure (or a lot of weekend closures) at some point.

Apparently the Montague St. tunnel situation was worsened by having the oldest signals — I assume the signal and power ducts were in worse condition than in some of the other tunnels. The signal and power ducts may have remained watertight in other tunnels and not in that one.

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