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MTA Warns Sandy Repairs Will Mean Frequent Subway Closures

By Jill Colvin | March 12, 2013 7:29am

NEW YORK CITY — Sandy is still wreaking havoc on the subway system.

Transit officials are warning straphangers to expect more overnight and weekend subway closures as crews work to repair damage wrought by last year's storm, using federal aid marked with a quick expiration date.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will have just two years to spend billions in recovery cash the feds have earmarked to help repair the system, which sustained unprecedented damage, officials said.

"We want to effectively spend that money in a very short period of time, so there's going to be greater outages," said Thomas Prendergast, the president of New York City Transit, during a committee hearing Monday.

"It'll be difficult but we'll try to manage that," he said.

The MTA is hoping to collect $4.75 billion to cover the cost of recovery repairs, in addition to $4.1 billion to shore up the system to make it less resilient to future storms.

"There's going to be, in some cases, for that first $2 billion, a hard-stop in terms of spending it in the first two years," explained Prendergast. "The problem we're going to have is, how do we do that and keep the system running."

While some of the work may be able to be done during so-called "Fast track" closures, which shutter trains for a series of weeknights so crews can complete repairs, the bulk of the work will require separate closures, he said.

A spokesman for the MTA said it was too soon to know how many more shutdowns riders might face — but that it's safe to say they'll jump as crews work to repair tunnels and delicate equipment that were submerged in corrosive salt water and shore up the system to make it less vulnerable to future floods.

"There is an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work still to be done to get us back to where we were before Sandy," said MTA Spokesman Adam Lisberg.

The MTA has already recorded more than 100 signal failures related to Sandy damage, in addition to problems with switches, power cables and other infrastructure issues, he said.

Most recently, storm-related damage to one of the East River tunnels left R train passengers delayed twice during the morning rush last week, he said.

Officials have said that they expected the storm to cut the lifetime of many pieces of equipment significantly.