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Superstorm Sandy: Fix&Fortify Efforts Continue

MTA New York City Transit Continues to Move Ahead at Sandy Plus Three

2015 Recovery & Resiliency

Under River Tubes
With nine of NYC Transit’s 14 under river tubes flooded and damaged to varying degrees by Superstorm Sandy, inspection and reconstruction efforts began immediately.  NYC Transit has successfully completed rehabilitation of two tubes, Greenpoint G subway and the Montague R subway, which re-opened for service in August and September 2014, respectively.  Currently, four tubes are under construction, the Steinway 7 subway, Cranberry A subwayC subway, 53rd Street E subwayM subway and Joralemon 4 subway5 subway Tubes. Together, the construction of these four tubes represents over $330 million.

In addition to repairing storm damage, resilient elements intended to help protect these assets from future storm events are included in project designs.  When completed, the four restored tubes will benefit approximately 890,000* riders who traverse these tunnels on an average weekday.  The work will also improve service reliability along some of the busiest lines in the city.  The remaining tubes are currently in the design phase, and work will begin after careful coordination with other major capital projects and service plans.


Steinway Tube ( 7 subway train):
Construction Start: October 2013
Construction Completion: Spring 2016
Construction Cost: $29 million
Daily riders: 200,000*

Cranberry Tube ( A subwayC subway trains):
Construction Start: December 2014
Construction Completion: Spring 2017
Construction Cost: $96.7 million
Daily riders: 230,000*

53rd Street Tube ( E subwayM subway trains):
Construction Start: April 2015;
Construction Completion: Winter 2017
Construction Cost: $92.6 million
Daily riders: 275,000*

Joralemon ( 4 subway5 subway trains):
Construction Start: July 2015
Construction Completion: Spring 2017
Construction Cost: $113.8 million
Daily riders: 185,000*

Montague Tube ( R subway train):
Construction Start: July 2013
Opened to Public: September 14, 2014 (Contract completion March 2015)
Construction Cost: $259 million
Daily riders: 65,000*

Greenpoint Tube ( G subway train):
Construction Start: July 2013
Opened to Public: September 2, 2014 (Construction completion December 2014)
Construction Cost: $93 million
Daily riders: 55,000*

*ridership figures from

South Ferry Station Complex, Lower Manhattan
Superstorm Sandy caused a 14-foot storm surge that completely submerged the South Ferry Station platform and lower and upper mezzanine areas - a depth of 80 feet.  All systems of this newly built station were extensively damaged. The old South Ferry loop station was recommissioned to serve 1 subway Line riders while work is underway.  The restoration of South Ferry requires it be virtually rebuilt.  A $345 million reconstruction project began in November 2014 and will continue until summer of 2017. All systems will be replaced, station finishes will be restored, and new flood mitigation elements will be integrated to protect the station against future flood events.

Construction Start: November 2014
Construction Completion: Summer 2017
Construction Cost: $345 million
Location: Lower Manhattan
Service: 1 subway train

St. George Terminal, Staten Island Railway
The St. George Terminal is the northern terminus of the Staten Island Railway. During Superstorm Sandy, flooding of the entire yard and interlocking caused significant damage to all 12 tracks, multiple switches, equipment and cables, as well as to facilities and the train control tower. The project will replace and modernize the track and signal systems and rehabilitate the control tower.

Part of this effort is a public/private collaboration between NYC Transit and the adjacent private developments of Empire Outlets and the New York Wheel, part of the St. George Waterfront Redevelopment Project ( Participants are collaborating in development of critical design elements and coordinating construction efforts to make the yard and the private development more resilient to coastal flooding.

The $107 million yard and tower reconstruction project began in September 2014 and is scheduled to be complete in mid-2017.

Construction Start: September 2014
Construction Completion: Summer 2017
Construction Cost: $107 million
Location: Staten Island
Service: Staten Island Railway, connections to Staten Island Ferry 

System-wide Resiliency
Recovery from Superstorm Sandy also means implementing resiliency measures to help the system better withstand future storms. Resiliency measures are intended to mitigate and manage the detrimental impacts arising from major flooding events, allowing the transit system to be protected or recover more quickly. During Superstorm Sandy, flood waters entered the transit system through nearly 4,000 Street Level Openings such as street stairs, vent gratings, manholes, hatches, elevator and escalator shafts, tunnel portals, fan plants, and other vulnerable openings. Multiple contracts are underway to address these initial hazard water entry points through a variety of measures including deployable and permanent stairway vent grating covers, watertight doors, and hatches, watertight manhole inserts, and stop log barriers to make entries to elevators and escalators watertight. Other resiliency initiatives include protection of train yards and terminals and bus facilities, critical facilities, and hardening of Right-of-Way and critical operating equipment.

Together, these projects total more than $2.0 billion in resiliency efforts. Resiliency projects have also provided an opportunity for more small businesses to do work for the MTA through the Small Business Federal Program, with $23 million in total projects costs begun in 2015.

STATS (Multiple contracts – Street Level Openings):
Over 20 separate construction contracts
Construction Start: September 2013
Construction Completion: Fall 2018
Total Cost: $400 million

Three years on, MTA New York City Transit has made significant progress in repairing the massive amount of damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, while simultaneously installing infrastructure protections in the event of a greater storm in the future.

The work to completely repair and strengthen the system is ongoing.  It is a massive project rivaled only by the original construction of the subway itself.  In all, NYC Transit infrastructure suffered more than $4 billion worth of damage and work will continue for the next several years.

The focus of the entire MTA family has been to assess the vulnerabilities of the network and work to correct them on an ongoing basis until resiliency can be designed and built in.  The resiliency effort anticipates a storm even more powerful than Sandy. 

Making it work

This work is a delicate balancing act with repair projects funded by the MTA Capital Plan, as well as short and long-term resiliency work, all being performed as we try to keep customer inconvenience to a minimum.  Scheduling is key, making certain that concurrent projects do not negatively impact customers’ commutes.

Of course, resiliency projects are not confined just to the subway system.  Scopes of work are currently being developed for four Department of Buses Depots.  These projects will create protections against future extreme weather events.   

“Work has been ongoing for the past three years to repair damage and protect the system against extreme weather events.  We all witnessed the damage that a storm like Sandy can do and it is our job to minimize the effects of future storms,” said James Ferrara, Interim President MTA New York City Transit.  “We have accomplished a lot over the past three years but we still have much more to do.”  

The storm

The night of October 29, 2012 was a significant one in the history of New York City Transit.  The storm surge racing across New York Harbor was like a special effect from a disaster movie.  When the waters crashed ashore at the Battery, it spilled into the subway through hundreds of openings.  Stairways, vent bays, elevators connections with other utilities – all became massive waterfalls.

The surge first hit southern Brooklyn where it inundated the Coney Island Yards and Maintenance facilities.  Past Lower Manhattan and midtown, the storm waters surged north swamping the subway yards at 148th Street and 207th Street in Upper Manhattan. 

Back downtown, the new South Ferry Terminal, which boasted three entrances raised to keep water out during a one-hundred-year storm filled like an unwatched bathtub after storm-driven marine debris barreled through protective measures that had been installed prior to the event.

The waters inundated Lower Manhattan, several subway yards, and subway stations as far north as 207 St. on the A subway Line – a station that had never flooded previously.  Nine of the system’s 14 under river tubes were flooded, some all the way to the ceiling.  Near the other end of the A subway Line, on Broad Channel, the track bed was washed away and rails left twisted.

In a catalogue of stunning images, one of the most shocking was a 168-foot tanker which was washed ashore near the Staten Island Railway shops.  Additionally, boats of varying sizes were beached on the A subway Line tracks on Broad Channel and a personal water craft landed in the Broad Channel station along with tons of debris washed in from Jamaica Bay and the surrounding community.

“We were out on the flats surveying the damage immediately after the storm and none of us had ever seen anything like it – damage to the outdoor segments and the flooded tubes,” said John O’Grady Acting Senior Vice President Capital Program Management.  “It is a tribute to our operations personnel that we were able to restore as much service as quickly as we did.  It was handled like a military operation.”

Subway yards, which had previously been evacuated of trains and personnel, resembled lakes and for several months after Sandy, switching functions normally handled remotely had to be done by hand.  The hand-switching operation was necessary to guide trains in and out of the yard.

On the third anniversary, weekend work is well underway on repairs to the 82-year-old Cranberry Tubes, which carry A subway and C subway trains under the East River between High Street in Brooklyn and Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan.  The Tubes were heavily damaged by the floodwaters.  More than 1.5 billion gallons of salt water invaded the nearly 5,800 foot-long tubes, damaging tracks signals, pumping equipment, electrical, and switching equipment.

This project will continue through 2016 with the goal of substantial completion by March, 2017.

During Superstorm Sandy, flooding of the entire yard and interlocking caused significant damage to all 12 tracks of the Staten Island Railway, multiple switches, equipment and cables, as well as to facilities and the train control tower.  Work is currently underway to replace and modernize the track and signal systems and rehabilitate the control tower.

The $107 million yard and tower reconstruction project began in September 2014 and is scheduled to be complete in mid-2017.

Sealing the system

Work is also well underway to protect the 900 openings to the system in Lower Manhattan.  Station entrances, vents, manholes – solutions were found for hundreds of locations where water could enter the system.  There is nothing available off the shelf for sealing the largest subway system in North America.  Unique solutions had to be developed for the unique designs of subway entrances and other access points.

Subway yards essentially require that a wall be built around the facility, which calls for more traditional solutions.  Coney Island will be protected by “trap bags” designed to the deployed prior to a storm and the removed again once the storm is over.

In early October, 2015 some weather models had Hurricane Joaquin sweeping north up the Atlantic Seaboard and then left-hooking into New Jersey – a storm patch that would have hit the City hard.

Days prior to the expected arrival, materials were delivered to Lower Manhattan in anticipation of sealing the system.  Fortunately, Joaquin turned east and headed over the Atlantic.  But the point was clear, NYC Transit was prepared to move out ahead of the storm and begin protecting assets.

In the face of possible future storms, work will continue to put in place new and innovative solutions to protect City’s mass transit system.


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