NEW YORK CITY — The R train is just days away from crossing the East River for the first time since Superstorm Sandy.
The line, which has been operating in two disconnected sections, with a gap between 34th Street –Herald Square and Jay St. Metrotech, is expected to begin traveling its normal route through its badly-damaged tunnel “within 7 to 14 days,” New York City Transit President Thomas Prendergast announced Monday during the MTA's first board meeting since Sandy.
The restoration is expected to happen in chunks. First, the line will be extended south, from 34th street down to Rector Street. Then, it will begin traveling through its East River tunnel, which officials said had been filled floor-to-ceiling with salt water, badly damaging electrical equipment.
However, officials warned that it could still be a while before the train begins stopping at the flooded Whitehall Street Station, which was inundated with water during the surge, knocking out its only working escalator.
The suspension of the R line has been a headache — not just for regular riders — but also on the 4 and 5 lines, which have been painfully overcrowded as straphangers have use them as an alternative.
“The 4 and 5 are getting hammered,” Prendergast said. “The sooner we can get service restored, in some kind of incremental fashion on the R, the better off we’ll be.”
There are also other restorations expected soon.
The J and Z trains, which share the same signal components as the R train, are expected to be extended from Chamber Street, down to Broad Street when the R service comes back online.
But the outcome was less rosy for the South Ferry Station, which officials said was the most ravaged city-wide. The station was filled to the brim with salt water, which tore down wall tiles and damaged railings, as well as electrical equipment, including escalators and elevators.
“It’s going to take a while,” he said. “You’re talking months.”