Rockaways celebrate return of the A train

A vintage A train departs the Beach 116

A vintage A train departs the Beach 116 Rockaway Park subway station after a trip from the Howard Beach station and a ceremony that signaled the start of service suspended in the wake of superstorm Sandy. (May 30, 2013) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

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A vintage IND train rolled through the Rockaways Thursday to celebrate the A train's return to the peninsula seven months after superstorm Sandy.

By noon, straphangers had an A train with regular service, which cost more than $75 million to restore.

"Today, we get the people of the Rockaways all the way home," said Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

The fanfare for the service restoration also included cheering MTA and contract workers, a singing group wearing A line T-shirts, and cookies with the train's symbol.

MTA and contractor crews faced a daunting task to get the line back in service for the summer, including removing 3,000 tons of debris, replacing 270,000 feet of signal cable, and repairing the Broad Channel and Beach 116th Street stations.

"The numbers are staggering," Fred Smith, a senior vice president and chief engineer for New York City Transit, said of the repair effort.

Smith said the subway shutdown in the Rockaways allowed workers to make repairs nearly around the clock. "That enabled us to do well more than a year of work in seven months," Smith said.

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While service has been restored to the Rockaways, more work needs to be done to a line that sustained an estimated $650 million in damages.

Still, residents were pleased they will no longer be stuck in commutes that can stretch up to three hours.

"People in the Rockaways really needed it," said Danny Ruscillo, a Community Board 14 member. "Now we have a little relief."

Vinicius Goulart, 32, a photographer from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said he was surprised to see the line back up while he was in the Rockaways for a day at the beach. "People can come for the summer now," he said. "It'll be so much easier."

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