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More tunnels damaged by Sandy will need more repairs in coming years

Montague Tube

Montague Tube Credit: The R train's Montague Tube reopens in October, 2014. (MTA)

The carnage Superstorm Sandy wrecked on the city’s transit system will be felt by riders over the next few years as more subway tunnels will undergo repairs.

Thomas Prendergast, the chair and CEO of the MTA, said Tuesday that the agency has to repair other tunnels, particularly in lower Manhattan, that flooded with salt water during the storm and corroded equipment.

The Montague tunnel, which carries the R train between Brooklyn and Manhattan, is shut for the next 13 months for major repairs and the Greenpoint tube, used by the G train, has gone through eight of 12 weekend closures for fixes. More tunnels will be shut once those repairs are done.

“We know there’s problems in the other tubes but we really can’t deal with those until we deal with these,” Prendergast told reporters after he gave remarks to the Citizens Budget Commission, a fiscal watchdog group. “You can’t close or limit capacity in too many tubes at one time. Otherwise, you actually reduce the level of service.”

It is not yet clear that these tunnel repairs will require full, 24-hour shutdowns, how long they will take and when they’ll start.

Of the 14 underwater tunnels in the city, nine were damaged by flood water in varying degrees — the worst were the R and G train tunnels currently being repaired. The MTA chief added that an around-the-clock closure would be a final resort, first looking at overnight, then weekend, tunnel shutdowns.

“We don’t believe they’ll be the same level of magnitude” as the R and G train tunnel closures, Prendergast said.

Prendergast noted that repairs must be made to the Clark and Cranberry tunnels that serve the No. 2, 3 and A, C trains, respectively. Further, service through the Greenpoint tunnel will be suspended for five straight weeks starting late July next year.

The MTA needs $4.8 billion to bring the system back to its pre-Sandy state. The money for repair work will come from federal money budgeted in the MTA’s current capital plan.

Still, full shutdowns cannot be ruled out until an assessment of tunnels and a repair plan is devised to deal with service problems in the damaged tubes, according to Adam Lisberg, an MTA spokesman.

“The clear expectation and hope is we will never have to do anything on the scale of the Montague closure,” Lisberg said.

Bill Henderson, head of the MTA board committee representing riders, said lamentably that the pain to riders is necessary, considering how the damage in the R train tunnel had caused more frequent delays. But he added that the MTA must alleviate the inconvenience with “meaningful” travel options.

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