A year ago, high winds and the heavy tidal surge generated by Superstorm Sandy destroyed the 3.6 mile long stretch of the A line across the Rockaway Flats. The unprecedented damage left more than 30,000 customers without a direct rail link between Howard Beach, Queens and the Barrier Island known as the Rockaways, severely lengthening commute times.
However, immediately after the winds died, MTA New York City Transit began an all-out, six-month effort to replace 1,500 feet of washed out tracks, miles of signal, power and communications cables, and to rehabilitate two stations that were completely flooded.
During the storm, a tidal surge covered this seventy foot wide strip of right-of-way with over four feet of water. Fencing was destroyed; tracks washed out and at two locations the strip of land was breached, connecting the fresh water pond with Jamaica Bay. This left hundreds of feet of track hanging in mid-air like some surreal sculpture. The receding tide left more than 40 boats, docks, logs, oil tanks, foam and thousands of tons of debris trapped on the tracks between the two fence lines.
With the prospect of the Rockaway Line being disabled for several months, the MTA took the unprecedented action of moving subways cars by flatbed truck onto the Rockaway Peninsula and setting up a temporary train shuttle service. The 60-foot, 80,000 pound R32-type subway cards were loaded onto flatbed trucks in Ozone Park, Queens and trucked across the Cross Bay Boulevard Bridge and placed back on the rails at Rockaway Park. A little less than seven weeks after Sandy struck, the fare-free H Shuttle began running along a portion of the line, and extra buses were assigned to other routes in the Rockaways, providing a temporary mainland connection to residents.
To ward off future flooding, a new 40 foot tall sea wall was built, extending along a two-mile stretch of the Manhattan-bound tracks. Constructed of corrugated, corrosion-resistant, marine steel, the panels are buried 30 feet into the ground. This $15.7 million sea wall will also protect the tracks from any future storm debris and is expected to last for 100 years.
The MTA performed more than $75 million worth of work to restore subway service to the Rockaways, and spent an additional $9 million operating replacement bus and subway shuttle service. To restore full A S service on May 30, 2013, six months after the storm, construction contractors and transit employees worked virtually nonstop for six months, removing debris, filling in washouts, repairing track, replacing signals and wiring, rehabilitating and rebuilding two stations in addition to the construction of the sea wall.
While service was restored, however, work continued. Contact rail heaters and controls along with switch heaters that will keep the tracks operable in freezing winter weather. Fine tuning of signal work is currently being performed, including third rail indicators and the installation of fuse boxes. Perimeter fixing is being replaced and the Track Division is re-tamping the track bed.
A cooperative effort between NYC Transit and the community is overseeing the redevelopment of the Broad Channel Station Community Garden devastated by floodwaters and subsequent recovery efforts.
In 2014, work that will be performed includes power substation, circuit breaker houses and associated power work in Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel. Additional work such as fence replacement, stationing demarcation and roof repair will be performed during a wrap up project. Channel Bridge walkways and lighting will be handled separately.
Before - During the storm a tidal surge covered this seventy-foot wide strip of track with four feet of water, destroying fencing and washing out track. Two locations connecting the fresh water pond and Jamaica bay were breached.
After - The New Sea Wall: extending along a two-mile stretch on the eastern side of the island, adjacent to the Manhattan-bound tracks, 40-foot tall, corrugated, corrosion-resistant, marine steel wall panels are buried 30 feet into the ground to ward off future flooding. Seven to ten feet of this wall is visible to customers, two feet higher than Sandy's storm surge. Expected to last 100 years, the $15.7 million sea wall now protects low-lying Broad Channel, which carries the A line icon across Jamaica Bay.
Before - The receding tide left over 40 boats, docks, foam and thousands of tons of debris along the mainline.
After - The clean-up of over 3,000 tons of debris took over three months to complete.