By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Take heart, R train riders!
The Montague Street Tunnel repair project is moving along on schedule and the tube will likely reopen in October – 14 months after it was closed.
That’s the news from Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials, who told the Traffic and Transportation Committee of Community Board 10 (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights) at a recent meeting that the repair project is progressing nicely.
The MTA was forced to close the tunnel, which runs beneath the East River and connects R train riders between Brooklyn and Manhattan, in August of 2013 in order to repair the tube.
The tunnel had suffered severe damage 10 months earlier when Superstorm Sandy hit New York City, MTA officials said.
“The flooding of the tunnel during Superstorm Sandy caused serious damage to the tunnel,” Doris Cruz, chairman of the Traffic and Transportation Committee, said. “A band-aid solution allowed the MTA to open the tunnel and resume full R service. But they knew that a larger project was needed.”
Since the tunnel’s closure, repair crews have been working in the tunnel almost non-stop, taking breaks only for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
“At this point, the workers are focusing largely on the demolition of concrete walls and the removal of the debris. To date, however, an impressive amount of work has been accomplished in what is nearly a complete rebuild of the tube after the ravages of Superstorm Sandy,” the MTA said in a statement on its website.
Workers are removing all of the wiring, lighting, signals, and concrete in the tunnel, MTA officials told the Traffic and Transportation Committee. The tunnel has been striped bare, right down to its cast iron ring, installed 100 years ago.
Workers are busy inspecting the tunnel for leaks and are stopping those leaks through a chemical grouting injection process, according to the MTA. During this process, over 2,000 of the original bolts holding together the 18 foot diameter cast iron tunnel rings and liner are being replaced with specially manufactured grout bolts. Before the project is complete, it is estimated that more than 6,000 high strength steel bolts will be replaced.
The repairs are, in reality, a complete rebuilding of the interior of the tunnel, according to Cruz, who called the work “an amazing feat of engineering and logistics.”
The cost of the entire project is expected to hit $308 million, according to the MTA.
The next phase of the work will involve finishing the concrete duct bank and installing electrical and communications equipment. New signals will be installed this coming summer.
The scope of work for the Montague Tube is extensive, according to the MTA. The work is being performed in two contracts. The first contract involves the repair of all right-of-way components, except for signals. The second encompasses repair of the signaling equipment.
During the tunnel closure, R trains do not run to Manhattan on weekdays. Instead, the R line terminates at Court Street in downtown Brooklyn.
The subway service disruption affects R train riders in neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and downtown Brooklyn.
On weekends, the R train travels into Manhattan via the N line. The trains travel on the Manhattan Bridge.
To help alleviate headaches for commuters, and to provide R train riders with a viable transportation alternative, Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-parts of Bensonhurst) worked with the Bloomberg Administration and then the de Blasio Administration to bring a Brooklyn-to-Manhattan ferry service to the Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier in Sunset Park.
There is an added incentive to complete the work on the tunnel on schedule, Cruz said. “If the project is not completed on time, there are liquidation damages of $63,000 a day,” she said.