Government Issues

N.Y. MTA Works to Fix Impacts of Storms Past and Future

Posted on September 23, 2013 by Charles E. Seaton

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Post-Sandy repair jobs included the Rockaway segment of the A Line.Repairs have already been completed.
All photos by Marc A. Hermann
Post-Sandy repair jobs included the Rockaway segment of the A Line.Repairs have already been completed.All photos by Marc A. Hermann
One year after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Northeast region with destructive winds and record-breaking storm surges, MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) is in the early stages of “Fix&Fortify” — a massive reconstruction and mitigation campaign designed to repair severely damaged infrastructure, while at the same time working to develop innovative approaches to protecting vulnerable segments of the system from future storms.

Adherence to well-developed plans saved rolling stock and work equipment valued at billions of dollars from harm, but the infrastructure took a severe battering that will take years to repair. The entire MTA transportation network suffered an estimated $4.755 billion worth of damage as a result of the most destructive storm in New York City’s history. It took only a scant few hours for millions of gallons of water to pour in and flood the subway system’s most vulnerable areas. To address the damage, NYC Transit has set up dedicated staff in all departments to develop and implement the Fix&Fortify campaign. Executive guidance to this effort is provided through a Steering Committee.

The funding for Fix&Fortify was secured and administered through the efforts of New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The MTA has been allocated nearly $3.8 billion in funding from the FTA for repair, resiliency, and disaster relief work for NYCT, Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road and other MTA divisions, as well as $3 million from FEMA for MTA Bridges and Tunnels.

“We maintain a high level of concern over future weather events even as we work to reduce the vulnerability of one of the region’s most vital, but fragile resources. We do not have the luxury of saying that we have 99 years to wait until the next hundred-year storm,” said MTA Chairman/CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “We are extremely grateful to Gov. Cuomo, the FTA and FEMA for their assistance in funding this massive repair and recovery effort.”    

Tube repair
The summer marked the start of two major projects to repair under river tubes flooded during the massive storm. The subway system’s Montague and Greenpoint Tubes were placed near the top of the list of post-Sandy jobs that also include the Rockaway segment of the A Line, upon which repairs have already been completed, and the ruined South Ferry Terminal Station, which has been temporarily replaced by the reactivation of the original South Ferry Loop Station.

The Montague Tube is a mature piece of infrastructure built by the BMT to carry Fourth Ave. Line subway trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Originally built during the First World War, it is part of the intricate network of subway lines connecting the two boroughs. Construction work began in October 1914 and the tube was opened for service on August 1, 1920. In contrast to today’s figures, the construction cost was a bargain at about $9.8 million.

Work is currently underway on the 14-month project to repair the Montague Tube, which carries the R train between Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan and is the longest under river tube in the system and the third of five subway tubes to be built connecting the two neighborhoods.

Nine of the system’s 14 tubes were hard hit by Sandy, most notably the Montague Tube, which was flooded with salt water to a depth of 15 feet. Loss of electricity to Lower Manhattan delayed the onset of water evacuation, leaving the tube flooded for ten days after the storm passed. Once power was restored, more than 27 million gallons of water had to be pumped out before work was begun to make it useable.

The Whitehall St. pump plant on the Manhattan side of the tube was completely submerged when the Montague flooded, rendering inoperable all of the stationary pumping equipment, electrical feeds and controls. Track, third rail and communications systems also suffered major damage along with electrical relays, switch machines and cables. Salt water damaged approximately 50 cables to the relay rooms at the Whitehall St. and Broad St. stations, 48 signal locations and track relays along with associated equipment.

It was necessary for the Signal Division to replace relays, transformers, resistors, fuses, LEDs, pins and switch machines, and two power locations in order to get service up and running again. When trains did resume operation, however, component failures rose dramatically, a clear indication that the service lifecycle of vital equipment, components and systems would be severely reduced. This proved true as the number of trains delayed due to signal failures increased up until the shutdown.

“The reality here was that the useful service life of hundreds of systems, components and segments of infrastructure were going to be substantially shortened. Nothing in those tubes was going to last as long as originally designed,” Prendergast says. “The work that we had ahead of us was the closest thing to building a tube from scratch.”   

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