Along the Long Island Rail Road’s Long Beach branch tracks — and in the waters below them — work is well underway on a series of projects aimed at repairing the devastation caused by superstorm Sandy and protecting the line from future natural disasters.
Friday, on the eve of Earth Day, the LIRR offered a glimpse of some of the work it had done to protect itself from the effects of climate change. On the Long Beach line, which is used by more than 20,000 riders each weekday, several efforts totaling $129 million are underway to fortify infrastructure that was severely damaged by the 2012 storm.
“This project is twofold, really . . . We’re restoring some of our stuff, but we’re also building resiliency into it,” said the LIRR’s director of program management, Thomas McHugh, as he led the tour. “If you can relocate it, you relocate it. If you can’t, you look to raise it. If you can’t, you look to protect it.”
The work includes installation of seven miles of new signal, power and communication cable — including by having divers lay cable underwater along Reynolds Channel beneath the Wreck Lead rail bridge that links Island Park to Long Beach. To power the signal systems and electrified third rail, three massive new electrical substations are being built on platforms 15-feet above ground — two of which are already online.
Several other new track side structures, including a backup generator for the bridge, a communications building, and more than a dozen “signal huts” containing critical electrical components, are being elevated to protect them from corrosive floodwaters, which came up nearly six feet during Sandy, McHugh said.
“In some of the signal huts, we found fish,” said McHugh, who vividly remembers the storm’s impact on the Long Beach line. “Along the branch, there were boats on the tracks . . . There was a boat that dragged a whole dock with it.”
LIRR officials said the Long Beach branch “continues to be at higher risk of climate-related problems due to its coastal location.” The railroad said the projects, among 40-climate related efforts undertaken since Sandy, aim “to minimize the risks of coastal flooding, storm surges and other climate-related problems that may occur in the future.”