“There is no A service to and from the Rockaway Boulevard Station and the Rockaways.”
That one simple sentence can be found on the website of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by anyone checking to see how service on their preferred bus and subway lines is progressing in the wake of Hurricane Sandy last week.
But MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota was far more blunt last week at a press briefing at which he detailed the relatively fast progress that has been made in restoring the vast majority of the mass transit system in less than a week.
Lhota said the A train connection to the Rockaways remains suspended because of extensive damage to the North Channel Bridge connecting Howard Beach with Broad Channel, as well as “extensive damage to the tracks and infrastructure in Broad Channel.”
Lhota said last week that workers already were out working to clear and inspect the tracks, switches and other infrastructure, but that there was not yet an estimate on how extensive the damage is, when repairs could take place or how much it will cost.
In response, Gov. Cuomo on Sunday directed the agency to suspend toll collections on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge through the end of November.
The order was made retroactive to when both bridges reopened after the storm, and any drivers who paid a toll with E-ZPasses before Cuomo’s order will be credited with refunds.
“The people of the Rockaways suffered tremendously from Hurricane Sandy, and with the loss of A train service, there is no easy way for many of them to get back and forth to the rest of New York,” Cuomo said. in a statement released by his office. “We are taking action to suspend these tolls to make the recovery easier for both Rockaways residents and the people helping them.
In a statement issued Monday, the MTA said it is planning to bring 20 subway cars by truck to the peninsula in order to run shuttle service from Beach 116th Street to Mott Avenue. From there, shuttle buses will carry passengers to the Howard Beach station to pick up the A line.
The statement said no timetable has been set for instituting the shuttle-bus service.
Lhota said on Friday that they have already restored approximately 80 percent of the system.
“We are in uncharted territory here in bringing the system back,” he said. “It’s very different from what we had in [Hurricane] Irene because of the amount of damage and saltwater in our system.”
He said that L train service still required detours and alternate service because of flooding in the tunnel it takes into Manhattan. He said it is a deep tunnel and one of the city’s oldest. He said the 108-year-old subway system sometimes has challenges because of the age.
“And we have switches and equipment that break without hurricanes,” he said.