Service shutdowns coming for R, G riders
UPDATED: 8:04 p.m. Tens of thousands of straphangers will have to find a new way to get around beginning this summer.
The damage Superstorm Sandy caused to the city’s transit system will continue punishing commuters as the MTA is forced to disrupt service on the R and G trains, the agency said Wednesday.
Starting the first week of August, the Montague tunnel that allows the R train to enter lower Manhattan will be shut down for 14 months.
Meanwhile, three G train stations — 21st Street and Court Square in Queens and Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn — will be shut for 12 weekends starting July 6.
Riders were frustrated at the upcoming commuting headaches they will have to endure, but understood that the repairs are necessary. “We’re not out of the woods on Sandy,” said acting MTA chair Fernando Ferrer. “We’ll still have compromises to our electrical and electronic systems, our mechanical systems, our infrastructure in general, that we’ll be dealing with for a very long time.”
The closure of the Montague tunnel means the 65,000 daily R train riders must take nearby train lines in downtown Brooklyn to get into Manhattan on weekdays. There will continue to be R train service from Queens to the tip of Manhattan; and from Court Street in Brooklyn to Bay Ridge. On weekends, the R train will run over the Manhattan Bridge, bypassing six stations between Canal Street and DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn.
To get into Manhattan, the MTA says R train riders must transfer in downtown Brooklyn at nearby stations such as Borough Hall and Atlantic Avenue.
Hilda Gonzalez, a Staten Island resident who frequently commutes to Brooklyn, said her 30-minute ride on the R train from the ferry will be longer.
“I’m going to have to go out of my way to get around now,” she said Wednesday. “I don’t know what to do.”
Other R train riders were exasperated but understanding of the need to close the tube for repairs.
“There’s nothing I can do to stop it,” said Inga, a 40-year-old commuter from Sheepshead Bay, who declined to give her last name. “If they are planning to fix it, it will be better in the end.”
Laura Truscelli, 64, of Staten Island, takes the ferry to her job in the Financial District but has to commute every week to Brooklyn for other responsibilities.
“It will make it more difficult. Now I have to walk a few blocks to Bowling Green to get into Brooklyn,” she said. “Truthfully though, I'd rather them fix it."
MTA board member Andrew Albert was concerned about overcrowding on nearby lines.
“I’m not convinced there’s enough capacity on the Nos. 2,3 and 4,5 [lines]” he said. “If you get there at Atlantic Avenue, it’s to the gills.”
The Montague tunnel was out of service for weeks after Sandy, reopening for R train service in December. Then, the MTA said future work could be completed during its Fastrack repair program and amid limited suspensions.
But the saltwater that flooded into the tube and sat for 10 days — 20-feet deep and 4,025-feet long — corroded tracks, switches, signals, and power and communication cables.
Slowdowns have been piling up in the Montague tunnel because of signal problems, going from 300 riders delayed a month in the half-year before Sandy to more than 38,000 riders a month since.
Tom Prendergast, the interim MTA executive director, said a project of this size is a career first for him. “It’ll take that long because it’s very close to building a tunnel from scratch,” he said.
Meanwhile, though G train riders will avoid the kind of disruptions R train riders will experience, the upcoming service changes are a taste of what’s to come: the MTA is planning to close the Greenpoint tube 24/7 for five-weeks in the summer of 2014.
Navigating the shutdowns
Beginning August, the R train will:
-- Have no service between Manhattan from Whitehall Street to Court Street in Brooklyn.
-- Run in two segments: From Queens to Whitehall Street; and from Court Street to 95th Street during the week.
-- Run over the Manhattan Bridge to Canal Street on weekends.
Transfers in Brooklyn for alternative service to Manhattan on weekdays:
-- F and G trains at the 4th Avenue-9th Street station.
-- B, Q, D, N, 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains at Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center.
-- A, C and F trains at Jay Street-MetroTech
-- 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains at Borough Hall