New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Thursday announced short- and long-term initiatives designed to mitigate the effects of Hurricane Sandy-type storms.
“It’s sunny outside, it’s warm, and we’re a month away from the start of another hurricane season,” interim executive director Thomas Prendergast said above the rumble of subway trains in a makeshift conference room at the South Ferry terminal in lower Manhattan.
The MTA’s New York City Transit division is launching a recovery and resiliency unit that will manage the rebuilding from Sandy, which will require years of construction and careful oversight of billions of dollars in federal aid.
The system estimates Sandy-related damage at $4.8 billion, mostly due to corrosive-salt damage to railroad and subway lines, vehicular tunnels, subway stations and power and signal equipment. The authority already been allocated nearly $1.2 billion from the Federal Transit Administration for repair and disaster relief work initiated by its divisions, including New York City Transit, Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road, and a further $3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for bridges and tunnels.
Plans call for protecting station entrances, fan plants, under-river tubes, tunnels, ground-level tracks, signals, train shops and yards, among other components. The goal is to protect all points where the subway system could be flooded during a storm.
“I don’t have the cost. It would include materials and fabrication. But for the value to reuse it, it’s a no-brainer,” said Prendergast.
The MTA, with about $32 billion of debt, is one of the largest issuers in the municipal marketplace. Moody’s Investors Service rates the MTA’s transportation revenue bonds A2, while Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s assign A ratings.
The division has issued 16 task orders to six architectural and engineering design firms, which will design system repairs and study best practices from flood-proofing resiliency efforts worldwide, investigate how they can be applied to the challenges of the New York City subway system, and develop schematic designs for construction. Starting this summer, they will present the first of a series of protection plans. The MTA is also soliciting additional firms to support future design and construction activities.
Short-term, said Prendergast, “we’ll do sandbags and plywood.”
Prendergast also said full service would return to the MTA’s A train along the Rockaway Peninsula on May 30, after a six-month effort to rebuild 1,500 feet of washed-out tracks, replace miles of signal, power and communications wires, and rehabilitate two stations completely flooded.
“This was done, in any government context, with the speed of light,” said acting MTA chairman Fernando Ferrer.
The new work included installing a corrugated marine steel sheet wall 30 feet into the soft soil of over two miles of the right-of-way along Jamaica Bay to protect the track against future washouts and ensure the line can handle future coastal storms.
The A line and South Ferry terminal, which serves the No. 1 line, sustained the worst damage from the Oct. 29 storm. The “new” South Ferry subway station, which had reopened in 2009, was devastated and will need years of renovation work. The MTA has reopened the old South Ferry loop station.