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Superstorm Sandy: Fix&Fortify Efforts Continue

MTA Bridges and Tunnels: Sandy Recovery, Restoration and Mitigation


Hugh L. Carey and Queens Midtown Tunnels
Approximately 60 million gallons of contaminated salt water flooded the tubes of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel during Superstorm Sandy last fall, necessitating extensive short and long-term repairs.

Nearly two thirds of the tubes flooded completely, and water rose 65 feet in one vent shaft.  Approximately 12 million gallons of contaminated salt water flooded the Queens Midtown Tunnel during the storm.  Bridges & Tunnels sustained total damages in excess of $700 million, primarily to tunnels.

The agency is seeking to recover 90 percent of this amount from FEMA.  To date, FEMA has approved $8 million.  The expenses for tunnel and other repairs are still pending FEMA’s validation and approval.

Bridges and Other Facilities
Closures at the bridge facilities lasted no more than 24 hours, primarily starting from the early evening of Monday, October 29, with all reopening without unusual restrictions by the afternoon of Tuesday, October 30.  Navigation lighting systems and associated walkways suffered damage from wind forces and from the storm surge, in particular at the Verrazano-Narrows and Throgs Neck towers.  

Our two Rockaway crossings sustained damage from the storm, as well. The Cross Bay Bridge service building was closed for approximately two weeks for cleaning and removal of debris.  Electrical equipment had to be cleaned, dried and restarted.  Permanent power was restored at the Marine Parkway Bridge on November 6 and at Cross Bay on November 15.


Hugh L. Carey Tunnel and Queens Midtown Tunnel
Immediate efforts included pumping water out of tunnels, operating emergency generators; responding to flooding conditions; performing in-house repairs; and replacing essential communication and electrical systems. Recovery work also included partial restoration of critical life safety systems; communication; tunnel ventilation; traffic signals; closed circuit TVs (CCTVs); roadway lighting, and drainage pumps.

On November 6, 2012, the Queens Midtown Tunnel was reopened for buses, and by November 8, all four lanes of the tunnel were opened for all vehicles except trucks; the truck traffic ban was lifted on November 16.  One lane of the East Tube of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel was opened for buses only during peak rush hours on November 12; the next day, the other lane in the East Tube was opened to cars in time for the afternoon rush hour. On November 19, all four lanes in both tubes of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel were opened for all vehicles except trucks. Truck traffic, including AM & PM reversible rush hour operations, was restored on December 10.

Bridges and Other Facilities
Major seawall and erosion control restoration work was completed at the Marine Parkway and Cross Bay bridges. The first phase of the Cross Bay Bridge Service Building restoration work has been completed. The electrical restoration work at both bridges is also being fast tracked via Design-Build procurement process, for which MTA Board approval was obtained.

Restoration work for damage caused by Sandy will continue over the next several years, mainly at the tunnels.  Much of the restoration and repairs at other facilities less severely impacted by Sandy have already been completed.  Comprehensive in-depth inspections, evaluations and designs for permanent restoration work at both tunnels have been advanced.

At the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, more than 12,000 suspended veneer ceiling panels that were compromised by corrosive saltwater have been removed to date. Similarly, some 2,600 veneer ceiling panels have been removed at the Queens Midtown Tunnel. The final designs for tunnel recovery work are expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2014, with major construction commencing mid-to-late 2014.

Mitigation Plans
Planned mitigation measures are intended to help MTA Bridges &Tunnels better prepare for future storms and reduce impacts to service, preserving the long-term reliability of our transportation network.  Short-term or “Rapid Mitigation” measures have been implemented at the four Sandy-impacted facilities—Hugh L. Carey and Queens Midtown tunnels; and the Marine Parkway and Cross Bay bridges—for protection against a future event equivalent to Superstorm Sandy.

Water-inflated cofferdams are a storm emergency response tool intended to protect the portals of the tunnel from severe storm surges. Test runs for the inflatable devices were performed by Bridges &Tunnels Maintenance and Engineering crews at both facilities in the summer.  Each dam, or tube, is 85 feet long, and rises to four feet in height when inflated with water fed by fire hoses. It takes about an hour to pump 20,000 gallons of water into one dam, which is far quicker and more effective than mobilizing sandbags.

At the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, the open railing/picket fence at Morris Street where flood waters entered during Sandy, is now secured with a steel-braced temporary wall system that will remain in place until a permanent retaining wall is constructed. Spare ducts leading from the Con Edison vault to the tunnel have been sealed.  Aluminum flood panels will protect exposed doors and windows of service buildings and ventilation buildings for the Hugh L. Carey and Queens Midtown tunnels.

Aluminum flood panels have also been ordered for exposed doors and windows of service buildings and electrical rooms at the Marine Parkway and Cross Bay bridges, and for other at-risk locations; cofferdams will be available as needed.

Longer-term mitigation measures to protect against a more severe flooding event will be implemented over the next several years.  These measures may include the permanent extension/raising of the retaining walls at tunnel plazas; installing permanent flood walls; flood gates and/or tunnel plugs; additional emergency generators; as well as relocating electrical and communications equipment to higher elevations.

MTA Bridges & Tunnels
The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel where 60 million gallons of water flooded the tubes.

MTA Bridges & Tunnels
Water rushes through the toll plaza at the Queens Midtown Tunnel. The tubes were flooded with 12 million gallons of water.

MTA Bridges & Tunnels
Cross Bay Bridge electrical equipment damage.

MTA Bridges & Tunnels
An area around the south abutment of the Marine Parkway Bridge was washed away, exposing a high-voltage power line.

MTA Bridges & Tunnels
Crews worked to remove over 2,600 damaged ceiling veneer panels from the Queens Midtown Tunnel.

MTA Bridges & Tunnels
Reinforcements were made to bridge abutments, such as this one at the Cross Bay.

MTA Bridges & Tunnels
Partial temporary repairs have been made to Roadway Lighting, Pump Stations, Cameras, Traffic Control Systems and Communication Systems.


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