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Montague Tunnel repair service right on track

R line riders, rejoice.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority representatives took the floor at a Tuesday, February 11 Community Board 10 (CB 10) Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting to announce that the Montague Street Tunnel repair project – also known as the Sandy repair project — is right on track.

“The Transit Authority is intending to open up the tunnel in October, 2014,” said Michael Naughton, a project supervisor, adding that MTA workers and construction crews are 99 percent complete with duct bank demolition – a major part of the Superstorm Sandy-related reconstruction – and are on target for the project’s first milestone: a complete rebuilding of the duct bank by February 28. “The push is on.”

Since the MTA received a Notice to Proceed on June 31, 2013, an estimated 65,000 subway riders have been forced to switch routes in the wake of a 14-month closure between Court Street in Brooklyn and Whitehall Street in Manhattan on the R line.

As of February 11, there have been 17,441 employee shifts dedicated to the repair project and a total of 229,646 hours of manpower to demolish existing duct banks, remove the original third rail and exiting cables, gut it and create a fresh canvas to rebuild the tunnel. The next phase of the project includes replacing over 6,000 bolts – 2,000 of which have already been replaced – and rebuilding.

“The project is under a microscope,” Naughton continued, adding that transit workers employed on the repairs have taken only three holidays since June – Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. “It’s one of those projects where you literally can’t take a rest.”

According to Naughton, the hard work has paid off and the project is “about halfway complete.

“[We want to] provide reliable services for years to come,” he said of starting from scratch and working to plug every single space that Sandy left flooded. “There are more than 300 entrances, stairways, vents and manholes in Manhattan that are susceptible to flooding.”

CB 10 members were thrilled.

“We’re very pleased that everything is on track,” said Doris Cruz, chair of the Traffic and Transportation committee, calling the closure a big inconvenience for South Brooklyn. “We think everyone’s going to be glad to hear.”

Looking for more good news, Cruz pondered if repairs would make room for more trains.

“We’ve always been told the tunnel can’t handle additional service,” she said, stressing that Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge is only going to keep growing, population and business-wise. “There’s a need for [more R trains and] additional subway service for Brooklyn.”

CB 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann and board member Bob HuDock agreed.

“There’s a lot of room for growth,” said Beckmann. HuDock called the Montague Tunnel and R train service a lifeline for Bay Ridge while board member Joseph Sokoloski said his subway experience hasn’t changed much since construction.

“I think it’s been working very well,” he said, noting that his own commute has been even shorter since cutting service. This could be, according to MTA representatives, due to the trip’s separation into segments – currently running from 95th Street in Bay Ridge to Court Street – turning the R line into a sort of shuttle.

MTA listened, and said they would look into improved R train service as well as more trains once closer to completion. “We appreciate everyone’s patience,” stressed Sheila Webb-Halpern of New York City Transit.

CB 10 and Ridgeite riders at the meeting were quick to voice their own appreciation.

“This is all good news,” said Cruz. “It’s very clear to us that it had to be done, and the most important thing to us is that it be done on time.”

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