One of the many challenges currently facing the MTA involves the lingering damage from Superstorm Sandy. Although it’s been nearly 2.5 years since the storm and its surge swept through New York, the MTA has repaired only two of the damaged subway tunnels, and the rest are seemingly on borrowed time. The agency simply can’t spend the money fast enough and can’t take multiple tunnels out of service at the same time. So long as the infrastructure holds up enough, the MTA can make the repairs over the next few years, but it’s a battle against the corrosive effects of saltwater and time.
In addition to the tunnels, the new South Ferry station remains out of service. Although the MTA is officially hoping to reopen South Ferry in 2016, in all likelihood, as we’ve heard rumored, the station will remain closed into 2017. It needs a full rebuild and more as the MTA is working to solve some problems with the original construction and fortify and harden the station and surrounding tunnels. It’s a project nearly as expensive as the original new-build station was nearly a decade ago.
But the money is on the way. Not that funding was in doubt, but in a statement released earlier this week, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand along with Congressman Jerry Nadler announced $343 million for South Ferry, a new federal grant in addition to the nearly $200 million in federal dollars they had delivered last winter. This isn’t new money; the MTA had been expecting it as part of the Sandy recovery package. Still, it’s always a plus to have the cash in hand.
“After Superstorm Sandy devastated New York and damaged critical infrastructure throughout the city, we need to make sure we aren’t just building back, but that we are building back stronger so we can be prepared when the next storm hits,” Senator Gillibrand said. “I’m pleased to announce this federal funding for the South Ferry station and will continue to fight for resources to strengthen and build back the critical transportation infrastructure New Yorkers rely on to get to work every day.”
What I find most interesting about the press release though aren’t the mundane statements or announcement of the money. Rather, it’s a three-sentence description of the rehab work. “This project,” the release notes, “will rehabilitate the South Ferry Terminal Station to a State of Good Repair and protect the restored infrastructure from future flooding. The rehabilitation work will include leak remediation and repairs to the station, rail tracks, line equipment, signals and power equipment. Flood protection measures will include hardening of station entrances, vents, manholes, hatches conduits and ducts.”
Take a close look at that second sentence. The rehab work includes leak mitigation. This is essentially a tacit admission that the MTA’s contractors royally screwed up the job the first time around. Due to Sandy, the MTA has a do-over, but it’s not one they ever wanted. At least now, though, they can correct one mistake of the past, and as the federal recovery dollars continue to flow, I can’t help but wonder where this money is for the MTA’s capital plans needed for the future and not just those to rebuild after a storm.