A Train Service Restored to Rockaways
May 30th, 2013
With soaring temperatures and sunny skies, there could have been no better day to bring back and Train service to the Rockaways. The Occasion was marked by a ride on a vintage subway train and a ceremony held at the beach 116 Street station, attended by Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) representatives and local elected officials who all joined to reopen the line with a ceremonial ride from Howard Beach.
“The Department of Transportation is investing more than $10 billion throughout the tri-state region to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and make the region’s transportation network stronger and more resilient than before,” said Peter Rogoff, Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. “The residents of the Rockaways know first-hand what it means to be the victim of the single greatest transit disaster ever to hit our country and they know just as well as anyone the real cost of the storm. The investment that the FTA has made to restore train service to the Rockaways will mean that some residents will no longer have to choose between spending twice as much time or twice as much money to get to work.”
“Restoring service to the Rockaways is a proud achievement for the MTA New York City Transit workers who did an incredible amount of work to rebuild a railroad from the ground up,” said MTA Interim Executive Director Thomas F. Prendergast. “The Rockaway Line has been in service since 1956, and the MTA is glad to once again provide a safe, reliable and efficient train trip for our customers. But the MTA’s post-Sandy work is far from over, and we still have plenty of work ahead of us.”
The MTA has performed more than $75 million worth of work to restore subway service to the Rockaways, and has spent an additional $9 million to operate replacement bus and subway shuttle service. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of additional infrastructure work remains to fully restore all elements of the Rockaway line to the condition it was in before Sandy struck. Funding was supplied by the Federal Transit Administration, which has allocated almost $3.8 billion to date to help the MTA recover from Sandy.
The MTA served Rockaways customers during months of construction by trucking a small fleet of subway cars to the Rockaways, where they served as the free shuttle along a portion of the line. A free shuttle bus ran between the Far Rockaway and Howard Beach stations, and extra buses were assigned to other routes in the Rockaways. However, many customers experienced longer and far more crowded rides.
The 3.7-mile stretch of the Line between the Howard Beach and Broad Channel stations is the most exposed area in the New York City subway network. For much of this distance, the line runs between Jamaica Bay and the Jamaica Wildlife Refuge. Both scenic and vulnerable, the low-lying line absorbed punishing blows from a combination of high tide and surging waters from the bay.
Sandy sent waters crashing over and under the tracks, twisting steel rails, destroying the electrical and signal infrastructure and washing out hundreds of feet of track support. Saltwater inundated everything that remained, leaving behind tons of wreckage and a monumental cleanup and repair job.
To rebuild from this catastrophic damage, construction contractors and transit employees worked virtually nonstop since early November, removing debris, filling in washouts, repairing track, and replacing signals and wiring in an effort to repair an historic level of damage.
The Rockaway branch of the Line was originally built by the Pennsylvania Railroad as part of what is now the Long Island Rail Road. When the New York City Board of Transportation looked to expand its Independent Subway System (IND), it struck a deal with the Pennsylvania Railroad on September 5, 1952 to pay $8.5 million for the Rockaway line as part of a major expansion into the underserved borough of Queens.
A unique facet of the first Rockaway reconstruction came from New York City Parks Commissioner and political mover and shaker Robert Moses, who stipulated that the Board of Transportation accommodate a bird sanctuary as part of the rehabilitation. This was accomplished by dredging Jamaica Bay, creating a manmade island from landfilled sections of the bay. Work was completed and service began June 28, 1956.