By Philip Newman
Residents of the hurricane-ravaged Rockaway peninsula will be able to ride a free rail shuttle starting at 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota praised the new shuttle as “unprecedented creativity on the part of the MTA’s subways and buses division.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the MTA will operate the train using subway rail cars hauled by truck to the Rockaways after tracks linking them to the rest of Queens were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Como said the trains, to be designated the H line, would run every 15 minutes between the Mott Avenue station in Far Rockaway and the Beach 90th Street-Holland station, making all intermediate stops using a connection known as the Hammels Wye which is not normally used for service. Stations west of Beach 90th-Holland sustained extensive damage to signal systems and cannot as yet accommodate passengers.
The H train will run between 4 .a.m. and 1 a.m. daily, leaving time for overnight maintenance and inspection of the line.
Rockaways riders who take the H to the Far Rockaways-Mott Avenue station can use the free shuttle bus from there to the Howard Beach station on the A train connection, connecting them to the rest of the New York City transit system.
“The A train tracks from Howard Beach to the Rockaways were almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy and replacing them is a tremendous undertaking,” Cuomo said. “While that work continues, this new shuttle service will help improve travel for people in the Rockaways, who are still recovering from Sandy’s effects.”
New York City Transit, which operates buses and subways, established the new H shuttle by loading 20 R-32 subways cars —each 60 feet long and weighing 80,000 pounds — onto flat bed trucks in Ozone Park, hauling them using MTA-operated bridges and tunnels and placing them back on the rails at the Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street station.
The transfer operation took place over four nights.
Lhota said, “MTA New York City Transit has responded with unprecedented creativity to restore subway service to Rockaways customers. This partial restoration of service is an important step for the Rockaways, but our work won’t be done until the A train is fully restored.”
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 718-260-4536.