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Bridge to Rockaways malfunctions, stranding beach-bound riders on holiday weekend

A ceremonial Nostalgia Train crosses the South Channel Bridge on its way to Rockaway Park on Thu., May 30, 2013, marking the return of regular subway service to the Rockaways after superstorm Sandy.
Marc A. Hermann / MTA

New Yorkers eager to cool off at the beach on the Fourth of July holiday weekend were left stranded at subway stations and battling delays Monday afternoon after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had to suspend service for almost two hours because the South Channel Bridge in Queens wouldn’t fully close, according to officials.

MTA suspended service on the swing bridge over the Jamaica Bay around 1 p.m., delaying A trains in both directions and forcing passengers get off and walk to a bus to still get to the beach.

“There was a mechanical issue with the A Line’s South Channel Bridge to the Rockaways that resulted in it being in a slightly open position for one hour, 40 minutes,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said in a statement. “The issue was resolved 2:36 p.m., allowing service to resume with residual delays.”

One Brooklyn straphanger said his trip to the shore was stopped in its tracks when he tried to transfer at Broad Channel from the A train to the Rockaway Shuttle, only to find that the train was held in the station with little information for alternative transit options.

“I understand, maybe they have to do maintenance, but don’t just make people sit there,” said Joseph Reid. “People were asking the conductor and he was like, ‘I’ve been given no other information, other than that they’re doing work on the bridge.’”

Police arrived and told passengers to leave the station and Reid was at a loss for how to get to his destination until he asked for guidance from the NYCT Twitter account, which advised him to walk to the Q53 bus.

Another Brooklynite’s journey came to an abrupt halt at the Howard Beach–JFK Airport stop, when the A train stayed in the station for half an hour before returning to Manhattan.

“There was some notification that there was maintenance, but they weren’t giving much information,” said Madeline Popelka. “We were nervous that we were going to be stranded for hours, so we just got back on a train on the other side and went back to the city.”

MTA announced the bridge’s reopening on Twitter just after 2:45 p.m., but the agency advised that delays would continue as a result of the temporary closure.

The more than 60-year-old bridge connecting residents of the Rockaway peninsula to the rest of the city has been a bane for riders for years due to regular closures for maintenance and to let ships pass through.

The bridge was part of the 3.6 miles of track on the Rockaway line that was badly damaged by superstorm Sandy in 2012, and MTA officials in the past acknowledged the the connector has had trouble returning to a closed position.

The MTA also closed a long stretch of the A Line from Jay Street–MetroTech to Utica Avenue for three weekends in June to accommodate track work.

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