Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
There will be no R train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan for at least a year starting in August as the MTA shuts down a key tunnel to repair damage sustained during Sandy, officials say.
The closure of the Montague tube will likely last between 12 and 14 months, and affect about 65,000 daily riders.
In addition, the MTA will shut down all G train service between Brooklyn and Queens for 12 weekends beginning later this summer.
“Closing these two subway tubes is a difficult but necessary step to restore them to the condition they were in before Sandy struck,” said MTA Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer in a statement.
“The temporary repairs that returned these tubes to operation after Sandy are not enough to provide reliable service. This is unfortunately the reality of recovery from Sandy: the damage is insidious and continuing, and repairing it will take billions of dollars over several years."
Some 4,025 linear feet of tunnel lay under seawater for ten days after Sandy, amounting to some 27 million gallons. Workers say even equipment that was cleaned showed signs of corrosion within days, in some cases.
The MTA maintains post-Sandy repairs were "never intended to be permanent," but officials say it only became clear in the months after Sandy that repairing the tunnels while keeping them in continuous operation would be impossible. Restoring the R train tunnel to reliability would have taken until 2016 if repairs had taking place only on nights and weekends, the MTA said.
"It will take that long because it's almost like building a tunnel from scratch," acting MTA director Thomas Prendergast said at a board meeting Wednesday.
Prendergast said he didn't believe any other subway tunnels were as extensively damaged or would need extensive closures, but he didn't rule that out.
There will be “some level of effort at the other," he said. "We don’t think the same order of magnitude, but in some cases until you get in and do a detailed examination, it’s difficult. But we don’t believe any of the others will be this order of magnitude at this time.”
In the Greenpoint tube, power cables that were immersed in salt water are corroding from the inside, while corrosion on the outside of rails and fasteners raises the potential for short circuits.
Damaged tunnel components on display at an MTA board meeting/Kate Hinds
The MTA describes damage to the Montague tube as "far worse." Concrete and terra cotta duct banks under the walkways along the sides of the Montague tunnels, built in 1920, were compromised while underwater for weeks and collapsed in many areas. That left cables exposed and unprotected, but the extensive damage makes it impossible to simply pull new cables through the ducts. The duct banks must be removed and rebuilt, making them available to be used as emergency exits from trains.
Delays caused by breakdowns led to a 120 percent increase in delays, according to the MTA, with up to 38,000 passengers affected each month.
At Jay Street MetroTech, R-train rider Keisha Spradley took the news in stride: "It's a little frustrating, I mean I know they have to do maintenance, and sometimes these shutdowns are necessary."
The MTA says straphangers can usethe 2, 3, 4, 5, A, B, C, D, F, N and Q lines, all of which are accessible from the R train’s final four stations in Brooklyn. On weekends, the R will run over the Manhattan Bridge.