Service between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn on the R train returns Monday morning ahead of schedule and under-budget after the MTA completed repairs and improvements to a Sandy-damaged tunnel, officials announced Sunday.
The Montague Tunnel under the East River had been closed completely to riders for 13 months. It reopens one month before its target completion date, with work costing $250 million rather than the anticipated $308 million, officials said. The MTA had set out "to not only restore the system to the way it was the day before the storm, but to harden it and make sure it's built back better," said chairman Tom Prendergast at a news conference at the Whitehall Street station in lower Manhattan."
The tunnel was devastated by superstorm Sandy in October 2012, when 27 million gallons of saltwater flooded it.
MTA workers operating round-the-clock in the past year have replaced two miles of track, 37 miles of communication cable and 14 miles of power cable in addition to installing a new signal system, substations and pumps and fixing cracked switches, Prendergast said. Workers also sealed off the circuit-breaker room in the tunnel with a heavy-duty, waterproof door "of submarine quality" to protect from future flooding and now have higher-capacity water pumping equipment, Prendergast said.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at the news conference called Sandy part of an "undeniable" shift in weather patterns. The entire subway system must adapt, he said.
"Our generational challenge is taking that system, making it more resilient, fortified for a weather pattern never anticipated before," said Cuomo, who toured the improved tunnel by subway.
Cuomo afterward told reporters he couldn't definitively say subway tunnels are now protected from floods if a storm strikes in the near future.
"Can I say that today? No," he said. "Can I say that we would be in a better position in terms of preparedness than we were? Yes. Have we educated ourselves from what happened? Yes."
If the MTA had fixed the tunnel by closing it just on weekends, the work wouldn't have be done until 2018, Prendergast said. The repairs were funded mostly by the Federal Transit Administration, he said.
The N train was to begin using the tunnel overnight.
Prendergast said among storm-proofing projects in the works are sealing off entrances where water can enter the subway system. There are about 500 such locations in lower Manhattan.