October 30, 2012

Northeast transit systems working to restore service

Thousands of New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) workers have begun to fan out through the system to inspect and repair of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  

The powerful storm affected service throughout the MTA service region. Metro-North Railroad lost electric power from 59th Street to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson Line and east to New Haven on the New Haven Line. The Long Island Rail Road sustained damage in its West Side Yards and suffered flooding in two East River tunnels.

Early Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that five of the MTA’s seven bridges, the Robert F. Kennedy, Verrazano-Narrows, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck and Henry Hudson bridges, were fully inspected and reopened at noon. The two Rockaway bridges, Cross Bay Veterans Memorial and Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges bridges, and the Hugh L. Carey and Queens Midtown Tunnel remain closed.

The governor also announced partial restoration of bus service at 5 p.m. Buses will operate on a fare-free basis and on a Sunday schedule. Attempts are being made to run as close to a full schedule as possible for Wednesday. Rides will continue to be fare-free.

“Our transportation system has never faced a disaster as devastating Hurricane Sandy, which has caused an unparalleled level of damage,” said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota after inspecting many of the hardest-hit areas.  “The challenge that we face now is one of assessment, inspection, repair, and restoration. This will not be a short process, but it will be one that puts safety as its major focus.”

Bridges and Tunnels also suffered major damage with flooding of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel from end to end and the Queens Midtown Tunnel also taking on water. Six bus depots situated in low-lying areas were also disabled by high water. The MTA and its operating agencies have begun the lengthy process of assessment and repair.  Damage has been extremely heavy in downtown Manhattan where several subway lines converge. The South Ferry station is filled track to ceiling with water as are several of the subway tunnels.

It is too early to say how long it will take to restore the system to full service, according to the MTA. There is a separate process that must be followed for each division. Bridges and Tunnels’ two Rockaway bridges did not suffer any major damage but remain closed due to flooding in the surrounding adjacent roadways and neighborhoods. Water remains in both the Queens Midtown and Hugh L. Carey tunnels. Once water levels subside, the water must be pumped out and the tunnels thoroughly inspected by engineers. Subway trains and buses must be inspected along with 5,600 buses, 6,200 subway cars, 600 miles of tracks and 468 subway stations.  Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road must take a close look at hundreds of miles of tracks, switches, railroad crossing and cars and locomotives.

This is will be an exhaustive, time-consuming process with one goal: to restore safe and efficient service to 8.5 million daily MTA customers. It must be noted, however, that this process could have taken much longer had MTA not taken the pre-emptive measure of suspending all service to safeguard its equipment and prepare facilities to the best of its ability.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Sandy also greatly damaged NJ Transit’s infrastructure across the state.

“The NJ Transit system has experienced unprecedented devastation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Destruction summarizes the impact to rails, rail yards, bus depot and critical operation centers”, said NJ Transit Board Chairman and NJ Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson. “With the break of daylight, NJ Transit began to inspect and assess the full extent of the damage. Our employees are committed to restoring the system as safely and efficiently as humanly possible.”

Early inspections reveal damage including but not limited to:

•    Two tug boats collided with the North Jersey Coast Line’s Raritan River Draw Bridge at approximately 4:15 a.m. Tuesday morning. The full impact to the bridge is unknown at this time.

•    Three boats and two cargo containers collided with the North Jersey Coast Line’s Morgan Drawbridge over the Cheesequake Creek at approximately 4:40 a.m. Tuesday morning. Additionally, two boats are also currently resting atop this bridge. The full impact to the bridge is unknown at this time.

•    Washouts have been reported along the North Jersey Coast Line, as well as at Kearny Junction, a critical link for MidTOWN Direct service to New York City.

•    Flooding has been recorded in Newark Light Rail tunnels while debris has impacted power lines along the Hudson Bergen Light Rail.

    NJ Transit rail station hubs at Hoboken, Secaucus and Newark Penn Station sustained impacts due to flood waters.

NJ Transit reminded customers that that all bus, rail, light rail and Access Link service remain suspended until further notice. Service will not resume until the state’s public transit system is repaired, safe, and secure.

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) will operate Light Rail, MARC Train, and Commuter Bus service on their regular schedules Oct. 31.   

“Following a comprehensive review of track conditions, catenary wires, parking lots, platforms, tunnels and power supplies we have determined it is safe to resume these services,” said MTA Administrator Ralign T. Wells. 

“While MARC passengers may experience some delays, we have been in regular contact with our partners at Amtrak and CSX, and agree that our equipment and facilities are ready to resume operations.”

Light Rail crews are reinstalling the at-grade crossing gate arms that were removed due to the high winds. Light Rail service is expected to operate on its regular schedule for the Wednesday commute.

Local Bus, Metro Subway and Mobility/Paratransit resumed service Tuesday. Metro Subway and Mobility operated at full strength. Local Bus had 90% of its fleet on line within a few hours of going back in service.

“I want to thank MTA employees for their diligence, working around the clock in inclement weather to get all of our systems back up and running as soon as possible. We also thank our customers for their patience during this weather emergency,” said Wells.

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