Warning from the M.T.A.: More Sandy-related tube closures ahead

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Prendergast on Tuesday. (Dana Rubinstein)
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The impact of Hurricane Sandy on New York City's subway system is likely to be felt for many, many months to come.

Today, M.T.A. chairman and C.E.O. Tom Prendergast warned that more subway tunnel closures lie ahead.

“We get done with Montague, and we get done with Greenpoint, then we have other tubes we’re gonna have to deal with, because salt water and electricity just don’t go together," said Prendergast, at a Citizens Budget Commission breakfast near Grand Central Terminal.

Prendergast was referring to the R train and G train tunnels.

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This summer, the M.T.A. began a 14-month closure of the Montague Street Tunnel, which carries the R train under the East River, in order to service electrical equipment that was corroded by the 26 million gallons of salt water that flooded the tunnel in a matter of 30 minutes during the storm. The transit authority also launched a 12-weekend closure of the tunnel that carries the G train.

The R train closure alone has inconvenienced an estimated 65,000 riders daily.

In a scrum following Prenderast's speech, I asked him if there were, in fact, going to be more tube closures.

"First of all, nine of the tubes were damaged pretty substantially," he responded. "We’re going after the two that were damaged the most. ... We know there’s problems in the other tubes, but we really can’t deal with those until we deal with these because you can’t close or limit capacity in too many tubes at one time, otherwise you actually reduce the level of service. So, we’re letting people know there may be problems. We don’t believe they’ll be the same order of magnitude."

Another reporter asked which tube closures are coming next.

"Well the ones in lower Manhattan, so it’s more like Clark Street, it’s Montague, it’s Cranberry, but I don’t know off the top of my head which ones," he said. "But it’s the ones in lower Manhattan where the storm surge occurred."

The Clark Street tunnel carries the 2 and 3 trains and the Cranberry Street tube carries the A and C lines.

"We focus on, first of all, anything we can do on nightly closures is where the focus would be," Prendergrast said. "Then you look at weekend closures, and then ... a permanent seven-day-a-week for over a number of months."

"Hopefully we can do them with just nightly closures," he said.

In a statement, M.T.A. spokesman Adam Lisberg said, "While it would be irresponsible for Tom to completely rule out another long term closure until we’ve finished assessing, he was extremely clear that we do not expect another tube closure of the order of magnitude as what is happening in Montague."