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Transportation Nation

Virginia Homeowners Fight 95 Express Lanes Ramp

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A homeowners’ group in Alexandria is fighting a proposal by Virginia transportation planners to build a highway ramp near their homes.

Concerned Residents of Overlook, an upscale community adjacent to I-395, wants the Virginia Department of Transportation to relocate a ramp that will serve as the northern terminus of the 95 Express Lanes, 30 miles of high-occupancy toll lanes extending from the Edsall Road area in Fairfax County to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County.  The $1 billion public-private project is scheduled for completion in December 2014.

“The ramp is going to be about 75 feet from my house,” said Mary Hasty, who has lived in Overlook for ten years. Hasty says she's learned to live with the constant din of highway traffic but did not expect VDOT would ever build an exit ramp so close to her residence.

“You get used to the hum of traffic, but I certainly never anticipated that I’d have cars 75 feet from my house and my patio and garden,” she said.

The group claims VDOT failed to adequately study noise and air quality impacts that will result when traffic exits the new express lanes onto I-395 or local roads. The neighbors fear exiting highway traffic will back up and idle on the exit ramp.

“Our biggest issue is that they moved the end point, called the terminus, of the HOT lanes from Crystal City, Arlington County to our backyard and they did not do any studies specifically to determine the impact on our communities,” Hasty said.

Hasty’s friend and neighbor, Sue Okubo, said the ramp will ruin property values, too.

“Already a number of neighbors are putting their houses on the market,” Okubo said.

“Maybe there won’t be an impact.  I don’t believe that.  That’s why we are having independent studies to determine what the impact is. We are late in the game and it is a David vs. Goliath scenario, but we are pushing really hard.” Hasty added.

Construction of the ramp is already underway.  Relocating it is unlikely, according to state officials.

“It would be very difficult to make a change at this point having gone through a lot of the studies and approvals at the state, regional, and federal levels,” said John Lynch, VDOT’s regional transportation director for Virginia megaprojects. Lynch refuted the homeowners’ claims that the state failed to study traffic and pollution scenarios.

“We went through the federal requirements and developed an environmental assessment which includes analysis for both noise and air quality,” Lynch said.  “The bottom line is those studies met all the federal requirements and it was reviewed by both the Federal Highway Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. We wouldn’t have gotten approval to move forward with this project if it didn’t meet those requirements.”

Lynch said VDOT responded to residents’ concerns by extending auxiliary lanes to mitigate traffic congestion at the future interchange, adding that all the pertinent documents have been shared with the Overlook community.

“We have been very transparent in providing all of the information that they requested,” Lynch said.  “We’ve met with the community multiple times both in 2011 and 2012 during project development.”

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Transportation Nation

PATH Train Resumes Some Service Between NJ and NYC after Sandy

Monday, November 05, 2012

PATH limited service map as of Tuesday November 6, 2012

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said it would take seven to 10 days to get the PATH train running again between New Jersey and Manhattan. A bit over a week later, some trains will roll through a tunnel that had been turned into a five-mile interstate canal by Sandy's storm surge.

Starting Tuesday, November 6, limited PATH service will run on the Journal Square - 33rd Street line from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Trains will not stop at Christopher Street or 9th Street stations.

The Exchange Place - World Trade Center line remains out of service as workers continue to repair and replace damaged equipment, "including those for signaling and train control. PATH engineers are repairing or replacing this equipment as quickly as safely possible," the Port Authority writes on its website.

With one route closed, riders should expect significant crowding. That's why the 9th Street and Christopher Street stations will be closed. Structurally sound, the 104-year old stations were not designed to accommodate normal levels of crowding, so with expected overcrowding they become unsafe. Passengers can use the 14th Street station.

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman says of the Exchange Place - WTC line, "we're still working on dewatering issues." He added "I wouldn't want to project" a timeline for resumption of service for that line.

You can always find the latest transit service updates for every agency (MTA, NJ Transit, PATH and others) in our Transit Tracker.

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Transportation Nation

Fuel Economy Hits Record High

Monday, November 05, 2012

(image courtesy of UMTRI)

The average fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. last month was 24.1 mpg--the highest level since the UMTRI began tracking it in 2007.

The University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute calculates that number based on vehicle sales and the "window sticker" number, which is verified by the EPA.

The UMTRI notes their numbers have been corrected to reflect changes in ratings for Hyundai and Kia models. Earlier this month, an EPA audit found that those car makers had overstated gas mileage.

For more, see the UMTRI's report here.

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Transportation Nation

Why Sandy Emergency Aid Is for Roads, Not Subways, Buses: Congress

Friday, November 02, 2012

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Newark, hours after workers finished pumping water from the city's light rail line.  (Photo by Anna Sale)

(Anna Sale, Newark, NJ -- WNYC) The federal Department of Transportation announced $12 million in emergency highway funds for Connecticut and New Jersey on Friday. New Jersey gets the bulk: $10 million.

That money will pay for road repair. Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, says none of the aid money will pay to fix the stalled transit system in New Jersey, which is coping with washed away track, broken equipment and even a pile of boats stuck on top of a drawbridge. (Slideshow)

"They tried to get an emergency transit fund established, but it hasn't been funded," LaHood said of Democrats in Congress.

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez supported emergency transit funding in Washington, but says it was blocked by Senate Republicans. He says Sandy’s paralyzing effects on regional transit could alter the politics of transit funding in Washington. “Maybe when we go back and we can make the case, see this is what we were talking about when we were trying to get you to agree. Agree now to give us an appropriation for this amount.”

New Jersey’s two U.S. senators joined Secretary LaHood on a tour of a flooded light rail line at Newark’s Penn Station on Friday. The last water had been pumped from the muddy tracks just hours before, and the extent of the electrical damage was still not clear. New Jersey Transit has not released an estimate or timetable for restoring service, earlier telling Transportation Nation the damage had been "unprecedented" and "crippling."

Secretary LaHood says it will be a busy weekend of repairs, but transit riders may still have to wait to resume their normal routines. “Be patient," he said. "We are doing all we can to make sure that people can be delivered to work on Monday in this region. Not just in New Jersey, but in this region. Whatever requests were received for additional buses, we’ve provided.”

Some of those buses will begin running between New Jersey park-and-ride locations and Hudson River ferries as early as Monday, New Jersey Transit announced. NJ Transit rail service along the Northeast Corridor will began connecting Trenton to New York City late Friday night.

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WNYC News

Interactive: Slide To See Before And After Sandy

Friday, November 02, 2012

Interactive images show the New Jersey coast before and after Sandy.

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Transportation Nation

Cuomo: Subway Trains Could Roll in 4-5 Tunnel Soon

Friday, November 02, 2012

Previous Work on the 4-5 Line at Borough Hall, Brooklyn (MTA Photo)

Governor Cuomo says the 4-5 train could be running under the East River soon. At a news briefing on Friday morning, Cuomo said: "We spoke with Kevin Burke in Con-Ed this morning, he's been making good progress especially in downtown Manhattan, he believes the power is going to be back on in what's called the Joralemon tunnel, which will facilitate the MTA bringing power back into the subway system in that area."

On Thursday,  MTA Chief Joe Lhota said once power was on, subways could run on the F and 4/5 lines within two hours.

On Friday, Cuomo said he expects an announcement this afternoon.

"If Con-Ed is correct and they re-power downtown Manhattan, and if the Joralemon tunnel is correct you'll see more trains coming on line and we'll have that announcement later today as we see exactly the effect of the re-powering," Cuomo said.

An hour later, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he'd hoped mass transit would be close to normal "soon."

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Transportation Nation

Subway Flooding Predicted, Eerily Matches Climate Change Model

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The subway map after flooding in 7 tunnels and a power outage suspended service to much of Manhattan in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Nov 1, 2012

Compare that map with this one we posted a year ago after Hurricane Irene gave us a taste of what water could do to a transit system.

With Sea Level Rise, Subways Flood in 40 Minutes During Intense Storms (Map Courtesy LDEO & Civil Engineering, Columbia University)

Four days after Hurricane Sandy slammed New York, a huge chunk of New York’s subway remains closed.  Experts say the cost to the economy could run to the hundreds of millions.

Turns out they say the threat of rising sea levels coupled with big storms like Sandy’s to the city’s subway system – and its economy – was both predicted and predictable under models of rising sea levels.

New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo says New York has to rebuild its subway system to make it less vulnerable to storms like Irene and Sandy, which hit New York just fourteen months apart. “Part of learning from this is the recognition that climate change is a reality, extreme weather is a reality, it is a reality that we are vulnerable,” Cuomo said.

On Monday night, as Sandy’s storm surge hit, salt water rushed into all five subway tunnels linking Manhattan with Brooklyn.

More people ride through those tunnels then ride through every other transit system in America. MTA Chief Joe Lhota described the scene the next day. “The MTA faced a disaster as devastating as it has ever faced in its history.”

The MTA had been aware of the danger.

About a year ago I spoke to Columbia University’s Klaus Jacobs. He modeled a storm like Sandy and brought his findings to the MTA. “And there was a big silence in the room,” Jacob said. “Because the system is so old. Many of the items that would be damaged by the intrusion of the saltwater into the system could not recover quickly.”

That’s a prediction that came eerily close to reality. Without power, pumping out the tunnels is slow. MTA officials need to dry out the parts, and then check each one of them before fully opening the subway.

More than a year ago, Jacobs produced a subway with the flooded lines colored in deep blue, looking like skeletal fingers under the East River. Last night, the MTA released its own map of the new subway. The closed lines almost exactly reflect Jacob’s model.

By Thursday none of the five flooded tunnels under the East River had reopened, though Lhota said two were within hours of operation if power could be restored.  In the subway, announcers intoned: “Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan.”

Officials set up shuttle buses to replace the subways, but the transfers were choked. A line at Brooklyn’s brand new basketball arena, Barclays Center, stretched fully around the arena – the same day the Arena was to host the Nets v. the Knicks season opener.

Damage to the MTA New York City Transit system in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

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New Jersey News

In Flooded New Jersey, No Oversight For Levees

Thursday, November 01, 2012

There's no state agency that regulates or maintains levees in the Garden State. But the flooding brought by Sandy will inevitably bring calls for more flood-protection systems.

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On Being

Joanna Macy — A Wild Love For the World [remix]

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Joanna Macy is a philosopher of ecology, a Buddhist scholar, and an exquisite translator of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. We take that poetry as a lens on her wisdom, at 81, on spiritual life and its relevance for the great dramas of our time.

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On Being

[Unedited] Joanna Macy with Krista Tippett

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Joanna Macy is a philosopher of ecology, a Buddhist scholar, and an exquisite translator of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. We take that poetry as a lens on her wisdom, at 81, on spiritual life and its relevance for the great dramas of our time.

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Transportation Nation

NJ Transit Still Shut Down, No Timeline for Service Resumption

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hoboken Terminal, post-Sandy (photo by NJ Transit via flickr) See the "before" photo below. 

All NJ Transit service remains closed Tuesday afternoon following Hurricane Sandy with no estimates for resumption of rail and bus service throughout the state, nor for the vital commuter routes connecting New Jersey to New York City.

The prospects for resumption of service are dire and daunting. "This is unprecedented damage," Nancy Snyder, a NJ Transit spokesperson, told Transportation Nation. Agency infrastructure and equipment is "quite damaged, if not crippled" she said.

Crews began assessing the damage at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, an intensive and arduous process that involves inspecting 500 miles of tracks and 300 rail crossings -- in addition to flooded bus terminals and train stations.

Key transit hubs in the NJ Transit system remained flooded Tuesday, including Hoboken, Secaucus Junction and Newark Penn Station.

"Right now there is no estimate for service restoration," Snyder said.

To follow the latest updates on resumption of service on all transit lines in the NY area, check our Transit Tracker.

The Hoboken Terminal earlier in 2012

 

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Transportation Nation

D.C. Metro Sustains Minimal Damage from Hurricane Sandy, Reopens at 2PM

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After a rare extended shut down of its entire rail and bus system, the first since 2003, the Washington D.C. area Metro is ready to start carrying passengers again as Sandy departs.

The ominous forecasts of what Sandy might do has Metro officials feeling fortunate for the relative ease with which they will be able to reopen.

"Given the magnitude of the storm, the potential for high winds, the potential for flooding conditions, we view ourselves as very lucky," says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

The lack of widespread commercial power outages helped, too. Overall, there was minimal damage to the rail lines.

"Construction fencing blowing onto tracks.We had some water infiltration in several stations, we had water pooling in elevator and escalator maintenance rooms underneath the units," says Stessel. "But nothing that would prevent us from re-opening."

Rail and bus will operate on Sunday service levels starting at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

"It may take up to 30 minutes for trains to filter through the system so you want to give it a little bit of time from two o'clock," says Stessel.

MetroAccess service remains cancelled and is expected to be restored tomorrow, along with full service for bus and rail.

New York is not faring so well. Here's the latest on the slog back to transit service in the NYC area.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Environmental Impact of Flooding

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director for Riverkeeper, discusses the environmental impacts of urban flooding from Hurricane Sandy.

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Transportation Nation

(UPDATED) NY MTA: Some, Not All Buses Back, No Timetable for Subways

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

10:11am: A beheaded subway entrance. (photo by Jim O'Grady)

UPDATE: Tuesday 4:50 PM: The MTA's Charles Seaton says not all bus routes will be running Wednesday morning, that limited routes will be running. Those will be announced later Tuesday evening.

UPDATE Tuesday 11:50 AM: The latest on MTA and NYC transpo is always at our Transit Tracker.

Some bus service will begin at 5 p.m. on a Sunday schedule.

There is no timetable yet for subway service resumption. Governor Andrew Cuomo and MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said in a joint press conference Tuesday morning they hope to have full bus service restored Wednesday morning. No fares will be charged through Wednesday.

Portions of subway service will return in pieces as it is able. Buses will be used to connect fractured sections.

Flooding could keep east river crossings shut for some time. The Clark, Steinway, Rutgers and Strawberry Street tubes under the East River are all flooded. Lhota said pumps are clearing the Joralemon Street tube and will have it dry in a few hours.

No buses or trains were damaged because of effective shut down preparations. Assessment of the extent of the damage on the tracks "will take a little bit more time than we thought," Lhota said.

Lhotoa said flooding at the South Street subway station was "literally up to the ceiling."

Pumping is underway in the Battery Tunnel.

Metro-North has no power from 59th Street to Croton.

 

POSTED Tuesday 9:05 AM: MTA chair Joe Lhota spoke to WNYC's Soterios Johnson Monday morning about the extent of the damage to the subway system. Listen to the interview below, and read the partial transcript of his remarks.

Lhota said he knew last night there was a problem. "Last night I was downtown and it was pretty obvious...I saw the water surge coming up, realizing that the systems were going to be affected. Our electrical systems, our alarm systems, tell us when there's water down there. They basically shut off. It's an automatic system...they would only shut off if there was water down there."

Johnson asked Lhota just how bad the flooding was. "The assessment is ongoing. Dawn is just cracking right now," Lhota said, adding that the sunlight would help with the assessment process, "which is going to be ongoing. We'll report back to New Yorkers later in the day as to what we have assessed, and determine how long it's going to take to get the system back up and running. One thing I do want everyone to focus on is the fact of how dynamic and how robust the New York City subway system is." And New Yorkers need to understand: "We're going to be flexible, we're going to try to be creative. Those systems that can be up and running, those portions of the system that can be up and running -- I want them up and running as quickly as possible. Then use our bus service and our buses -- re-route them in such a way that they supplement and complement each other. And that's what I mean by creativity: if there's a portion of  the system that's going to take longer to repair, that doesn't mean the whole system is down...we're New Yorkers, we adapt very very well."

Johnson asked if salt water had flooded the subways. "I can't imagine that it's fresh water, it's going to be at best brackish, but for the most part it's salt," Lhota said. "Water and electricity never mix properly, but when you add salt to it, once the water is gone, the salt leaves a film...the way electronics work on the subway system is two pieces of metal running together conducting electricity. And it there's anything in between those two pieces of metal -- like film left over from salt -- that needs to be cleaned off because the connections need to be clear and straightforward for us to manage the process of making the subway system safe."

Johnson asked Lhota what his worst-case scenario for restoration of subway service. "I literally can't answer that until later today," Lhota said. "his happened overnight, it's been ongoing, the assessment's been ongoing, and we've called...all of our workers backs." "Are we talking days or weeks?" asked Johnson. "It's unfair to me -- I'm going to  try to get this up and running as quickly as I possibly can," said Lhota. "I really don't want to be tied down to answering that question the way you've asked it because it'll be something that will linger out there...it would be a scientific wild guess on my part to answer it that way and I just need to get better information and then determine it."

As to when the bridges and tunnels will be open: "I literally just sent a text message to Pat Foye, the head of the Port Authority," said Lhota. "He and I need to figure out how to open up the bridges, how to open up the tunnels. The wind has calmed down significantly...the tunnels, if they're dry, the assessment can be relatively straightforward. [But] the bridges, given the extent of the wind, we're going to need a couple hours having the engineers assess that there's no damage to any of the bridges. We experienced at the Triborough - RFK bridge wind gusts over 100 miles an hour last night. That's extraordinary. We've got to make sure that the integrity of the bridge is there. I'm confident that it is, but out of an abundance of caution we're going to need at least two hours for our engineers to go through and assess to make sure that the bridges are safe. I think they're safe -- in fact I'm almost positive they're safe -- but out of an abundance of caution, we will do the work we need to do."

Johnson asked about the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter rail lines. "First off," said Lhota, "we're trying to count the number of trees that are downed on Metro North and it's going to be in the hundreds...we're going up in a helicopter today to assess the entire system from the air to determine where we have our problems. The Long Island Rail Road experienced an enormous amount of flooding all through the South Shore, the Babylon branch all the way out to ...Montauk. We're assessing that right now and will determine how far we can go." He continued: "I am very worried about power....the power is a problem. It's an electric subway system for the most part. Some of our commuter rail system is electric as well, some it's diesel, or a combination...we need electricity to run. So this power problem in the tri-state area is significant for getting us up and running on the commuter rail front...the power on Metro North is down from 59th Street in Manhattan all the way up to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson line, all the way up to New Haven, Connecticut on the New Haven line. We have no power on the system at this time."

In terms of the actual conditions of the rails: "We're going to have to evaluate it," Lhota said. "We're going to have to walk ths system to determine the extent of it and we're also going to have to cut up all the trees that are in the way and get them out of the way."

With reporting by Alex Goldmark

 

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WNYC News

The Science Of Why Sandy Is Such A Dangerous Storm

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricanes often weaken as they travel north across colder water and approach land. But Sandy hasn't. One reason is that it's expected to change from a tropical storm powered by warm ocean water to something more like a winter storm powered by temperature and pressure differences in the atmosphere.

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Transportation Nation

NY Governor, MTA Chief Say Subways in "Jeopardy" Over Flooding Threat

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Broad Street subway station in lower Manhattan, sealed up (photo by Jim O'Grady)

UPDATED WITH A WHOLE BUNCH OF NEW INFO FROM THE MTA: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his MTA chief, Joe Lhota, say the danger of flooding of the East River subway tunnels is quite real.

"Our subway system and salt water do not mix," Lhota said in a briefing with the Governor this morning.  "Salt water can corrode switches quite easily." Lhota added that would put the general ability for the system to function "in jeopardy."

Salt water corrosion of switches - some of them 100 years old -- could have long-term, unknowable effects on the subway system.

According to a press release sent late Monday, "MTA New York City Transit has taken strong measures to protect the subway tunnels that cross under the Hudson and Harlem rivers. However, the unprecedented levels of storm surge predicted to accompany Hurricane Sandy present a significant threat to those tunnels and to the speedy restoration of service after the storm." (FULL RELEASE BELOW)

An hour after the Governor's briefing, Mayor Michael Bloomberg downplayed the threat of subway flooding.  "If a little water gets in, you pump it out," the Mayor said, arguing that the biggest threat would be inundated trains.

His office offered no immediate explanation for the differing views of the threat of salt water to the subway system.

Five subway tunnels that run under the East River could be in danger, according to an analysis by Columbia University: the A-C, the 2-3, the 4-5, the R, and the F.  MTA spokesman Charles Seaton says the MTA has stationed personnel at the mouth of each of the tunnels to monitor flooding.  That information is transmitted to a dispatcher.   The personnel will remain there "as long as it is safe," Seaton said.

During Tropical Storm Irene, as WNYC reported a year ago, the city came within a foot of seeing the subway tunnels flood.  Officials just predicted Sandy will peak at 11.7 feet above flood stage, versus 9.5 feet for Irene.

From my earlier report:

Columbia Univeristy Professor Klaus Jacob has worked with the MTA to model what would happen if you couple sea level rises – the FTA says to expect four feet by the end of this century – with intense storms like Irene. In forty minutes, Jacob says, all the East River Tunnels would be underwater. Jacob says he took those results to the MTA, and asked, if that happened, how long would it take to restore the flooded subway to a degree of functionality?

“And there was a big silence in the room because the system is so old. Many of the items that would be damaged by the intrusion of the saltwater into the system could not recover quickly. You have to take them apart. You have to clean them from salt, dry them, reassemble them, test them and cross your fingers that they work.”

In a best-case scenario, Jacob calculated that it would take 29 days to get the subway working again. But in the meantime, a halted subway would almost halt the city’s economy, which, he says produces $4 billion a day in economic activity.

Here's the full statement from the MTA, released about 4 pm Tuesday:

MTA New York City Transit has taken strong measures to protect the subway tunnels that cross under the Hudson and Harlem rivers. However, the unprecedented levels of storm surge predicted to accompany Hurricane Sandy present a significant threat to those tunnels and to the speedy restoration of service after the storm.

Station entrances and sidewalk vent gratings in low-lying areas such as lower Manhattan have been covered with plywood and reinforced with several feet of sandbags. However, those measures are designed to slow the entrance of water into the system, not to prevent flooding. In addition, the pumps installed throughout the subway system to remove water run on electricity, and will not function if electric power to the system is interrupted.

NYCT personnel and New York City police officers are monitoring conditions in all stations, and patrol trains travel the entire subway system looking for signs of water infiltration. NYCT personnel are also removing stop motors, which interact with automatic brake equipment at track level, so they would not be damaged during any flooding.

If the threat of tunnel flooding appears likely, NYCT is prepared to remove power from the signal system. Because water conducts electricity, and salt water conducts electricity particularly well, signal equipment that is submerged in seawater would be especially vulnerable to damage if power remained on.

When salt water is removed from the system, salt deposits will remain on contact surfaces that will accelerate corrosion, causing potential failures. All those surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned, but they cannot always be cleaned in the field, and some cannot be cleaned at all and must be replaced.

It is difficult to predict the amount of time required to pump water from a flooded tunnel and bring its equipment, as well as adjoining stations, back into service. It depends on the height of the storm surge, how rapidly it penetrates the protective barriers, the length and diameter of tunnel tubes and the extent of flooding into adjacent underground sections and stations.

NYCT has three pump trains available to remove water from under-river tunnels. But the wide range of variables means that merely pumping out water from flooded tunnels – before restoring signals and other equipment – is estimated to take anywhere from 14 hours to more than four days. And as a general rule, the longer a tunnel is flooded, the longer it will take to return to service.

The last time subway tunnels under rivers flooded was December 11, 1992, when all subway lines were suspended for a time and three tunnels filled with water. Some were restored the same day, but the Canarsie Tube carrying the L line under the East River was out of service for several days.

 

 

 

 

 

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WNYC News

Sweden Wants Your Trash

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Move over Abba, Sweden has found new fame. The small Nordic country is breaking records — in waste. Sweden's program of generating energy from garbage is wildly successful, but recently its success has also generated a surprising issue: There is simply not enough trash.

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WNYC News

Frankenstorm: Has Climate Change Created A Monster?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This year, Americans saw a strangely warm winter, a ridiculously hot summer and extreme drought conditions. As Hurricane Sandy advances on the East Coast, folks may be wondering if climate change has come to pass. Let's see what science can tell us.

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Transportation Nation

Here's the NY Gov. Order for Transit System Shutdown

Saturday, October 27, 2012

UPDATED: Sunday 12noon: Here's the latest release from the NY Governor's office about Hurricane Sandy transportation shutdowns and evacuation orders. Scroll down for previous statements.

 

 

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES MTA TO SUSPEND SERVICE IN ADVANCE OF HURRICANE SANDY

Orderly Suspension of Subway, Bus and Commuter Railroad Service Begins at 7 p.m.

Transportation System Must Be Suspended to Protect Customers, Employees and Equipment

Monitor mta.info and Media Outlets and Call 511 for Latest Transportation Information

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will begin the orderly suspension of all subway, bus and commuter railroad service at 7 p.m. Sunday to protect customers, employees and equipment from the approach of Hurricane Sandy.

The New York City subway system will begin to curtail service after 7 p.m., and the New York City bus system within the following two hours. Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road will start their final trains by 7 p.m. Subway and railway stations will be closed after the last trains.

Customers who need to travel today should do so as soon as possible and not wait until the last train or bus is departing. Anyone who does not leave for their destination before 7 p.m. runs the risk of being stranded when service is suspended. New York City Transit, Metro-North and the LIRR will cross-honor each other’s passes today to speed the process of returning customers to their homes.

“The transportation system is the lifeblood of the New York City region, and suspending all service is not a step I take lightly,” Governor Cuomo said. “But keeping New Yorkers safe is the first priority, and the best way to do that is to make sure they are out of harm’s way before gale-force winds can start wreaking havoc on trains and buses.”

The MTA Hurricane Plan calls for suspending service hours before the approach of winds of 39 mph and higher. That gives MTA crews time to prepare rail cars, buses, tunnels, yards and buildings for the storm, then return to safety. Winds of 39 mph and higher are predicted to reach the metropolitan region during the predawn hours Monday.

“The MTA proved it can suspend service in an orderly manner when it did so last year for Tropical Storm Irene, and we have refined our Hurricane Plan since then to help us prepare for Hurricane Sandy,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “This storm will batter the MTA, but the precautions we take now will allow us to recover much more quickly.”

The MTA has for days prepared for the possibility that conditions would require a service suspension by readying recovery equipment, clearing drainage areas, moving vehicles from low-lying areas in bus and rail yards and sealing some tunnel access points.

The duration of the service suspension is unknown, and there is no timetable for restoration. Service will be restored only when it is safe to do so, after careful inspections of all equipment and tracks. Even with minimal damage this is expected to be a lengthy process.

Metro-North Railroad’s special “Train to the Game” for today’s Jets game in the Meadowlands has been cancelled. Customers who return promptly to Penn Station after the conclusion of the game will be accommodated on MTA services leaving by 7 p.m.

Outbound Access-A-Ride trips are being scheduled only until 12 p.m. today, and return trips will continue until 5 p.m. Any previously scheduled trips after that time, including subscription trips, are cancelled.

The Staten Island Railway will attempt to continue to operate until the Staten Island Ferry suspends service, in order not to strand any customers in the ferry terminal. However, the railway will not operate if conditions are deemed unsafe.

Customers and the media should monitor the mta.info website or call 511 for the most current service information.

 

POSTED: Saturday, 2:45 p.m. Just in from the New York Governor's office, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will begin taking the first steps of what could become a total subway and transit system shut down for the New York City area in response to Hurricane Sandy.

A decision will be made Sunday.

The MTA hurricane plan calls for shutting down any above ground subway service in high winds, or especially heavy rains. For a bit more on why a total subway system shutdown might be called for, see our article from yesterday, and our coverage from Tropical Storm Irene last year, the first  preemptive total system shutdown in the 108 year history of the NYC subway.

Full statement from NY Governor Andrew Cuomo's office:

GOVERNOR CUOMO DIRECTS MTA TO BEGIN PLANNING FOR POSSIBLE ORDERLY SUSPENSION OF ALL MTA SERVICE IN ADVANCE OF HURRICANE SANDY
Final Decision Whether to Suspend Service Will Be Made by SundaySubways, Buses and Commuter Railroads Will Prepare to Suspend Service Sunday Evening to Protect Customers, Employees and EquipmentState Preparations Continue for Department of Health

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to begin planning for an orderly suspension of all subway, bus and commuter railroad service, if Hurricane Sandy continues to bear down on the New York City metropolitan area. In addition, the Governor continued oversight of state preparations for the storm, including actions taken by the State Department of Health (DOH). 

Department of State Operations Howard Glaser, DOH Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah, MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, and PANYNJ Executive Director Pat Foye gave an update on preparations at the Governor’s Office in New York City today. 

A final decision on whether to suspend service will be made by Sunday, but the MTA must begin preparing immediately for a possible suspension to protect its customers, its employees and its equipment.

If a decision to suspend service is made by Sunday, New York City subways and buses would begin an orderly suspension of service at 7 p.m. Sunday. Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road would suspend service at 7 p.m. Sunday. Some lines may be curtailed over a period of several hours before all service is suspended, but no one would be able to rely on any MTA service after 7 p.m. Sunday. 

All customers leaving the Sunday afternoon Jets game in New Jersey would be accommodated before service is suspended. However, the special through train from New Haven to the Meadowlands has been cancelled. 

“I have directed the MTA to put its Hurricane Plan into action to help New Yorkers prepare for the storm and protect the vital assets of the region’s transportation system,” Governor Cuomo said. “New Yorkers need to take action now to protect themselves, and as the transportation system prepares to possibly suspend service, no one should wait until the last minute to prepare.” 

The MTA Hurricane Plan is designed to secure equipment and protect employees before dangerous sustained winds of 39 mph or higher and storm surges of 4 to 8 feet reach the area. This process must begin hours in advance of the storm’s arrival, as thousands of rail cars, subway cars and buses must be pulled from service and stored safely.

“Suspending the largest transportation system in North America is a monumental effort, and it is imperative that we start the process before we make a final decision, and before the worst of Hurricane Sandy reaches us,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “That means all of our 8.5 million daily customers need to prepare for the storm and be ready to complete their travels by 7 p.m. Sunday.”

Before any final decision on suspending service, MTA crews will follow the Hurricane Plan by moving rail cars, locomotives, subway cars and buses from low-lying yards to higher ground; preparing recovery equipment and clearing drainage areas; and deploying sandbags and other protective materials at tunnel entrances, station entrances and other locations vulnerable to flooding. Taking these pre-emptive measures before the full brunt of the storm arrives will help in the MTA’s recovery efforts after the storm passes.

MTA subway and railroad stations are not designated shelters and would be closed in the event of a service suspension. Those in need of assistance would be directed to designated shelters nearby.

Service would be restored following the storm only when it is safe to do so, after careful inspections of all equipment and tracks. There is no timetable established for restoration. Customers and the media should monitor the mta.info website or call 511 for the most current service information.

Details of each agency’s suspension plans are provided below.

New York City Transit

If a decision is made to suspend service, all New York City subway and bus service would need to be suspended by early Monday morning to allow crews to secure stations, tracks and tunnels before the onset of sustained winds of 39 mph or higher.

On the subway system, where the orderly suspension of service takes eight hours, service would begin to be curtailed after 7 p.m. Sunday. While some trains may continue to run for several additional hours, there would be no guarantee of any subway service after that time, so all customers who rely on the subway would have to plan to complete their travel by 7 p.m. Sunday.

The bus system requires six hours for the orderly suspension of service, so buses would be able to remain on their normal routes for as much as two hours after 7 p.m. Sunday. There would be no guarantee of any bus service after that time.

The MTA would run normal service until those times, with sufficient capacity to allow customers to leave vulnerable areas and reach safe destinations before service is suspended. Those who use the MTA to evacuate would be allowed to carry pets. Dogs must be leashed and, if possible, muzzled. Cats should be in carriers.

Subway stations in flood-prone locations such as lower Manhattan would be evacuated and secured. Critical track-level components would be removed from tunnels under rivers so they will not suffer the corrosive effects of salt water if they are flooded. Workers would secure all elevated stations to protect against damaging winds.

There would be no Access-A-Ride trips scheduled after 12 p.m. Sunday. Customers will be able to schedule trips until then. 

Metro-North Railroad

If a decision is made to suspend service, Metro-North Railroad would run its final trains at 7 p.m. Sunday to prepare for the arrival of high winds and heavy rain. Customers are urged not to wait for the last trains when making their travel plans.

Grand Central Terminal, including its shops and restaurants, and all outlying Metro-North station buildings would be closed for the duration of the service suspension. In preparation, train equipment is being moved out of low-lying locations known to be prone to flooding, such as the Highbridge and Mott Haven yards in the Bronx. 

As the storm approaches, Metro-North has secured its infrastructure by moving trucks and equipment such as backhoes, cranes and bulldozers, to higher ground. 

Parking lots that usually flood, such as the ones at White Plains and Beacon, would be barricaded. Connecting ferry service at Beacon and Ossining would be suspended. The Hudson RailLink that serves Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale would be suspended.

Metro-North has asked many employees to shelter during the storm at a Metro-North facility, so they will be immediately available to begin recovery efforts when the worst of the storm has passed.

Long Island Rail Road

If a decision is made to suspend service, Long Island Rail Road would run its final trains at 7 p.m. Sunday. Service would be suspended earlier on some outlying parts of the system because crews would be required to secure or remove 690 gates at 295 railroad crossings across Long Island to prevent them from being damaged by wind. Customers are urged not to wait for the last trains when making their travel plans.

This process takes approximately 12 hours and must be completed prior to forecasted sustained winds of 39 mph or higher. Crews would begin by removing gates east of Ronkonkoma on the Main Line to Greenport, where weekend service does not operate at this time of year. Additionally, crossing gates would start being removed on the Montauk Branch east of Speonk beginning Sunday morning, so train service would be replaced with buses from 9 a.m. Sunday until the full service suspension takes effect at 7 p.m. 

Long Island residents, pedestrians and drivers need to be aware that the third rail remains electrified even during a service suspension and equipment trains may be operating. Please act in a safe manner in and around tracks.

In order to restore service, train equipment and crews must be repositioned, all crossing gates re-installed and fully tested and power to the crossing gates restored. In addition, any debris, such as fallen trees, must be removed from tracks and the right of way inspected.

Preparations by State Department of Health 

Based upon the latest weather models, the greatest risk to the New York City metropolitan area and the entire state, due to rain and strong winds, will be prolonged power outages. These prolonged outages may last at least 48-72 hours beginning as early as Sunday evening. This could also lead to flooding, which is a chief concern.

Statewide, the Department of Health has released general guidance for all health care facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, and adult care facilities, to be prepared for a prolonged power outage and to check generators, fuel levels, food and water levels, etc. Health care facilities should focus on planning for patients who are dependent upon electrical equipment such as ventilators, dialysis patients, oxygen concentrators, etc. Dialysis facilities statewide should consider staying open on Sunday and dialyzing as many patients due for dialysis Monday through Wednesday as possible. Facilities should report power outages to their local county/NYC Emergency Operations Center and to DOH. Facilities needing assistance due to prolonged power outages should make requests through their local EOC who will then request state assistance if needed.

In the New York City metropolitan area, with the MTA closure possibly planned for 7 PM Sunday, DOH has required all adult homes and nursing homes to bring staffing levels to 150% of standard shifts by 5 PM Sunday. Staff should be prepared to stay for 48-72 hours. The State Human Services Task Force is responding to a request for 700 volunteers for pre-landfall deployment and 2,500 for post-landfall deployment to staff shelters.

DOH has designated a “Slosh Zone” which includes Zone A, the Rockaways, northeast Queens and eastern shore of the Bronx. All nursing homes in these areas are required to move ventilator dependent patients to facilities outside of the Slosh Zone by 5 PM Sunday. Ambulances are currently at home stations awaiting directives to support the movement of vent patients. 

DOH is in regular contact with hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities in Slosh Zones, county health commissioners and local health directors statewide. DOH staff is also deployed in the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Healthcare Facility Evacuation Coordination Center (HEC). 

To get the latest updates on the storm, follow the Governor on Twitter and subscribe to our Storm Watch list. You can also visit www.governor.ny.gov or connect with the Governor on Facebook for more information.

Visit www.dhses.ny.gov/aware-prepare/ for safety tips from DHSES on how to be prepared.

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Transportation Nation

From The Archives: Big Storms, Climate Change Imperil Transit

Friday, October 26, 2012

As Hurricane Sandy approaches, we thought of this, our story from a year ago,  in which we reported that if the storm surge had been just a foot higher during Hurricane Irene, New York's east river subway tunnels would have been flooded.   An alarming prospect, but one the federal government warns could be increasingly common -- and costly.

Here's the story:

On the Sunday after Tropical Storm Irene blasted through the five boroughs of New York City, the city exhaled. Huge swaths of Manhattan hadn’t flooded, high winds hadn’t caused widespread damage. Perhaps no one was as relieved as then-MTA CEO Jay Walder, who had just taken the unprecedented step of shutting down the entire transit system.

“The worst fear that we had, which was that the under-river tunnels on the East River would flood with salt water, were not realized. We certainly dodged something there,” Walder said at a post-Irene briefing with city officials.

What the city dodged was the ghost of climate change future — higher sea levels, intense storms, and elevated amounts of precipitation, all of which could combine to cause widespread flooding of the subway system.

Here's the full story:

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