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Thread: Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel

  1. #1
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Default Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel

    Underwater passage celebrates 60th birthday

    By Michael Mandelkern

    Measuring 1.7 miles, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel is the longest underwater tunnel in North America. The underwater passage, which serves approximately 44,000 vehicles commuting between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn everyday, celebrated its 60th birthday on May 25.

    In the early-to-mid-1900s, ironworkers, engineers, carpenters, electricians and other laborers spent 13 million hours constructing the tunnel’s two tubes and four traffic lanes under the East River. Three buildings in Governor’s Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan provide ventilation for the tunnel.

    The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel cost roughly $90 million. In the past sixty years, MTA Bridges and Tunnels has spent $323 million to maintain and improve the tunnel with improved lighting, updated exhaust vans and a new roadway and drainage system.

    The federal government postponed the project in October 1942 to conserve steel and iron for World War II. Workers completed road surfacing, wiring, tiling and painting and opened up the tunnel eight years later.

    On May 25, 1950, a large group of dignitaries, including then Mayor William O’ Dwyer and Robert Moses, legendary architect and head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority at the time, attended the tunnel’s debut ceremony.

    “Since opening day in 1950 the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel has helped join the city together,” said Jim Ferrera, President of Bridges and Tunnels, according to a press release. “Every day thousands of New Yorkers rely on the tunnel to commute to Manhattan via express buses and cars, and for the delivery of goods.”

    Vincent Tedesco, a Fulton Street resident, frequents the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel twice per week during the school year. It takes him approximately 30 minutes to arrive at the university he attends in Staten Island by swiftly arriving in Brooklyn and then onto the Verrazano Bridge. “The tunnel is more efficient and quicker than the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway [BQE],” he said.

    Tedesco considers himself one of the few who drives a motor scooter through the tunnel but enjoys weaving through the traffic. “Riding through there is like a video game, but I feel safe,” he said.

    Renée Shepherd, General Manager of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, also praised the tunnel’s convenience. “Our employees are dedicated to ensuring safe and efficient travel for our customers, and are aware of its importance as an extremely vital transportation corridor in New York City,” she said through the press release.

    The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel was crucial to rapid emergency response after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Fire engines rushed to and from the scene that day, and construction vehicles made constant trips to Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11.

    Moses originally intended to build a bridge instead of an underwater tunnel. Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt objected under the belief that it would be a national security risk. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also voiced opposition to the initiative because she thought that method of transportation would obstruct views and ruin parkland, a sentiment some New Yorkers shared at the time.

    The MTA did not hold a formal ceremony to commemorate the tunnel’s 60th anniversary but “it’s going to remain a vital link for that corridor,” said Judie Glave, a public affairs representative of MTA Bridges and Tunnels.

    The organization, which is entirely funded by tolls and bonds, will take measures to balance its budget by cutting overtime pay by $22 million this year and $60 million in 2011 and each year thereafter.

    The spending reductions will affect all seven bridges and two tunnels that MTA Bridges and Tunnels operate, including the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

    MTA Bridges and Tunnels also increased its efficiency to be more productive. The agency will add an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift for overnight maintenance, which is projected to save $1 million in the process, according to the MTA Web site.

    Although the MTA’s tight budget is hindering future construction, toll fees, which will rise next year, keep the tunnel in good condition. “It’s as well-maintained and vital today as it was 60 years ago,” said Glave.

    http://www.downtownexpress.com/de_370/underwater.html

  2. #2
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Hurricane Exposed Flaws in Protection of Tunnels

    By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL


    Michael Nagle for The New York Times

    Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck, the vital arteries that bring cars, trucks and subways into New York City’s transportation network have recovered, with one major exception: the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel remains closed.

    The devastation there has underscored how major tunnels across the region are poorly protected from extreme weather and how they will need significant modifications to prevent such catastrophic failures in the future.

    The tunnel’s general manager, Marc Mende, recounting what happened on the night of the storm, made it clear that he had no ability to block the angry rapids he saw heading for the Manhattan entrance.

    He described the scene as “surreal,” saying that he had quickly helped power down a generator and then made a harrowing drive through the nearly two-mile-long tunnel as it started filling with water to make sure his workers had evacuated.

    “I couldn’t believe it — this tunnel never flooded before,” he said. “This tunnel didn’t even get puddles.”

    Unlike a number of other tunnels around the world, the Brooklyn-Battery does not have even a basic system to block water at its entrances. No gates or plugs or other barriers. Nor do Manhattan’s other tunnels. Defenseless under the storm’s ravages, the Brooklyn-Battery instead served as a drain for Lower Manhattan, filling with nearly 100 million gallons of water.

    It is unclear when the tunnel is going to reopen, since engineers are just beginning to assess the damage to lighting and ventilation systems, for example. That leaves the 50,000 vehicles that used to take it each day — from commuter express buses to cement trucks bound for the World Trade Center site — still struggling to find alternatives.

    “I’d guess now over the next few years, we’ll see more being done to identify critical facilities and protect them from extreme events,” said D. Wayne Klotz, past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a Houston water engineer. “If you think what happened is unacceptable — and I’d say it was — you have to do something. Because I can guarantee you this kind of storm will happen again.”

    In interviews, several engineers said they were shocked that New York City had not done far more to safeguard its tunnels, especially the Brooklyn-Battery, the longest underwater tunnel in the United States, which has a notoriously low-lying entrance.

    While the rising seas and extreme weather associated with climate change have raised the risk, engineers also point out that because tunnels have a limited number of entrances and exits, they are not that hard to protect.

    After a close call during Hurricane Katrina, Mobile, Ala., rejiggered the ventilation system of a major tunnel to prevent damage from floodwater; the city has studied building up ground around entrances.

    Houston has installed watertight doors to protect its pedestrian tunnels from floodwater — much like the sealing emergency doors on cruise ships. The Midtown Tunnel in Norfolk, Virginia, has long had a floodgate, which is tested twice a year.

    Richard Dawson, director of the Center for Earth Systems Engineering Research at Newcastle University in England, said he “was quite surprised there weren’t floodgates” on New York’s road and subway tunnels. Many stations of the London Underground have them.

    In recognition of the growing risk, the Department of Homeland Security in January successfully tested a giant protective inflatable tunnel plug that expands in minutes when filled with water, like a car air bag. Before Hurricane Sandy, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority deployed considerably less sophisticated methods, using plywood to cover some subway grates and piling sandbags at entrances.

    Asked whether the Transportation Authority was exploring new flood-prevention measures, Aaron Donovan, an agency spokesman, said: “At this point, our focus is on the immediate need to restore the tunnel. Long-term planning can and will take place once this is behind us.”

    The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel had never closed for weather, even as a precaution, until Tropical Storm Irene last year.

    But water levels on the southern end of Manhattan have risen about nine inches since the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel was opened in 1940. It is a significant increase, since its entrance is just a few feet above sea level.

    The Queen-Midtown and Holland Tunnels also flooded, though less severely, during Hurricane Sandy. Both have now reopened.

    “I always knew Manhattan’s tunnels could flood,” said Scott Douglass, a coastal engineer at the University of South Alabama. “But a computer model is a lot different than seeing pictures with water pouring in.”

    Building codes and engineering practices meant to protect urban infrastructure from weather-related disasters have generally not kept pace with evolving scientific knowledge, computer-assisted engineering capabilities and a shifting climate, experts said. The problem is amplified for older structures like the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

    “They were using slide rules to crunch numbers,” said Mr. Klotz, and relying on limited historical weather data to define a worst-case flood. New computer modeling provides guidance and solutions. After one of its coastal plants narrowly escaped flooding during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Chevron asked Dr. Douglass to model its vulnerability. The result was an 18 foot-high sea wall that prevented damage during Hurricane Katrina.

    The same model estimated a storm surge could be nearly 30 feet at another Gulf location, Dr. Douglass said, adding: “People say that couldn’t happen. But yes it could. That is what we should be doing now in every coastal city.”

    Rob Beck, senior vice president of engineering at Munich Re, the global insurer, said that when asked to insure tunnels, he studies the elevation of the entrances relative to severe floodwaters. “This is an extreme event in terms of urban infrastructure, but the event was predictable and known — I knew if it hit at a certain time, the subways were flooded,” he said. “The M.T.A.’s tunnels were never designed for this kind of storm surge. Should they be? In my opinion: clearly yes.”

    But protection can be costly and cities tend to respond only after disasters. Houston installed the watertight doors in its pedestrian tunnels only after flooding caused extensive damage during record rainfall from Tropical Storm Alison in 2001.

    “We’ll save hundreds of millions by closing half a dozen doors,” said Mr. Klotz, the past president of the engineers’ society. “It was amazing how little they had to do.”

    Asked what would happen if a similar storm hit again, Mr. Mende, the manager of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, shook his head, calling Hurricane Sandy “an act of God,” as pumps whirred on the barren toll plaza in Red Hook the background.

    He said he was proud of his maintenance staff’s work in response to the disaster. While engineers said the flooding could have been readily prevented,
    Mr. Klotz said: “Whoever owns that tunnel knows exactly what it would take to keep water out in case of a flood. and it’s not high tech. They just didn’t want to spend the money.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/10/n...=nyregion&_r=0


    Deep in a Flooded Tunnel, Mud and a Little Bit of Light

    By JOHN SCHWARTZ

    This is the midpoint of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and its lowest spot, 140 feet below a ventilation building that sits on a spur off Governors Island in New York Harbor. The building has machines that normally force air down shafts into the two-mile-long tunnel, which has remained closed since it was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. Now, however, engineers are using those deep shafts to pump water up.

    A steel stairway within the ventilation building leads up to the access ports for the airways, where workers have snaked six-inch-wide hoses deep into the darkness below. Outside, four big diesel engines roar, circulating hydraulic fluid through the pumps at high speed, moving the water out of the tunnel and into the harbor. “We never thought we would use these shafts for water,” said Romolo De Santis, a facility engineer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

    But Mr. De Santis and his colleagues never thought that they would have to get 86 million gallons of water out of the tunnel, either. These pumps, along with others in the Battery and Brooklyn, have been drawing out as much as 10,000 gallons a minute.

    Around a corner in the building’s labyrinth, a passage leads down seven flights into the tunnel. At their worst, the floodwaters filled the tunnel and reached up several flights.

    This week, the scene at the bottom was harshly lighted by enormous lamps and the air smelled like mud and diesel. The water was largely gone, though several feet of it sloshed below the roadway in the space for conduits and vents, and more dripped from the waterlogged ceiling.

    Once the water from Hurricane Sandy’s surge is truly gone, the muck will be scooped away by front-end loaders and other earth-moving machines, and the walls will be washed down so that structural engineers can inspect and figure out what must be done before cars and buses can return.

    The Coast Guard has provided most of the pumps at this site, and a private contractor for the transportation authority brought others. The Army Corps of Engineers is also working on the project.

    Kevin G. Wagner is among those helping to get the tunnel working again, and he knows water. He came to the city in the aftermath of the hurricane from his home in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, near New Orleans. After Katrina, he worked as a project manager removing water from his parish, where he and most of his family lived, in the town of Chalmette. His in-laws’ home had water above the kitchen counter — which might not sound like much, except that the kitchen was on the second floor.

    He said that when he and his colleagues in New Orleans saw the pictures from the Jersey Shore, it felt hauntingly familiar. “Everything,” he said, “looked exactly like what happened in Katrina.” So he was happy to be part of the effort to do for the Northeast what the rest of the country did for his home.

    “I think the people of New York and New Jersey are just like the people of New Orleans,” he said. “They love their city. They’re going to come back.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/10/n...l?ref=nyregion

  3. #3
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    They need storm gates they can seal and an escape passage that opens at a higher elevation.

    These are TUNNELS. As soon as you find a good cut-off point, you can put 50 feet of water on them and it will do little. The gate does not even have to be "tight", so long as it significantly reduces the flow rate. You get it so it is only spraying through and it would take a week to fill rather than an hour.

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    But the tunnel did divert some water that would have flooded the Financial District even worse than it was.

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    The tunnel diverted a drop in the bucket literally.

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    I know, I'm trying to be optimistic.

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    Or sarcastic... I hope!

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