Hurricane Sandy approach sees road bridges and tunnels kept open for now, rail transit totally shut down

October 29, 2012
By Peter Samuel

Oct 29 1am: Transit systems all over the mid-Atlantic area have been completely shut down well ahead of Hurricane Sandy, but highways are more resilient and too important to shut down except in dire circumstances.  As of writing the New York/northern NJ area looks most threatened by the big, slow storm.

MTA in New York suspended all subway and commuter rail service from around 7pm Sunday on order of Governor Cuomo, with no time set for restoration of service. All bridges and tunnels remain in service.

No carrying of plate glass please

However NY/MTA warns on tunnels and bridges in New York: "Closures will be determined on a case-by-case basis based on high winds, rainfall and roadway conditions."

If sustained winds of over 50mph occur they plan to bar passage by "certain vehicles... including motorcycles, tractor trailers, step vans, mini buses, trucks with open backs, cars pulling trailers, motor homes and vehicles carrying plate glass." (more than carrying the plate glass of the windshield you're left to guess.)

50, 55, 60mph winds set as closure triggers

They add separately: "In a wind event with sustained high winds of 60 mph or more, a bridge may need to be closed. It will reopen once conditions subside. A crossing may also be closed if there are sustained winds below 60 mph coupled with rain that could impair driving visibility. Motorists are urged to check the MTA Service Status box at www.mta.info for updates regarding MTA crossings."

MTAB&T operate the Henry Hudson, Robert Kennedy (ex Triboro), Walt Whitman, Throgs Neck, Verrazano Narrows, Marine Parkway Hodges and Cross Bay bridges. Plus the Brooklyn-Battery and Queens Midtown tunnels. (see map nearby)

There was mention earlier Sunday of one of the two tubes of the QMT being closed, but later that was removed.

PANYNJ which operates crossings across the Hudson River NY-NJ was suspending all train service midnight Sunday night until further notice. As for vehicular bridges (Geo Washington, Bayonne, Goethals and Outerbridge) and tunnels (Lincoln and Holland) they are "subject to closure anytime."

Maryland Tolls committed to keeping crossings open if possible

MdTA (Maryland Tolls) says it plans to "make every effort to keep its bridges and tunnels open during the storm."
The major bridges will be closed when winds exceed 55mph. At lesser wind speeds more vulnerable vehicles are restricted from using the bridges - at 40mph empty box trailers for example are prohibited from crossing.

MdTA's big bridges include the Chesapeake Bay Bridge between Annapolis and the eastern shore of Maryland and the Francis Scott Key Bridge on the entrance to Baltimore Harbor. Two vital tunnels the Fort McHenry (I-95) and HarborTunnel (I-895) seem unlikely to be threatened unless there is a huge storm surge up Chesapeake Bay.

Meanwhile Washington Metropolitan  Area Transit Authority (WMATA) suspended service on the national capital MetroRail service completely for all of Monday, Tuesday reopening to be determined. Plus bus services are out. They have great alternating graphics "A Storm is Coming" and "Metro Service Suspended on Monday" with a hurricane symbol white on red.

Delaware DOT says major bridges will be closed if winds get over 50mph.

Erroneous reports in Philadelphia of toll bridge closings

Delaware River Port Authority headlines late Sunday that all its bridges (Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, Commodore Barry & Walt Whitman Bridges - Philadelphia to south Jersey) remain open to vehicular traffic. Only walkways are being closed. DRPA's PATCO commuter train service is being suspended early Monday morning.

DRPA had to correct what it called "erroneous news report" of bridge closures, adding: "All DRPA bridges are open and will remain open until further notice."

Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC) highlights the postponement of a meeting of its governing board of commissioners meeting Oct 29. What next?

It adds on bridges: "Please understand that since various factors are involved, the Commission does not predict if or when bridge closures may be necessary.  Likewise, the Commission does not make predictions about river levels or flooding."

Any news on closings would be posted under 'Latest Updates' on their homepage.

Penn and NJ pikes quiet

The Pennsylvania Turnpike advises travelers to drive slower and to watch out for trouble. Extra crews are being put on the road to clear any windblown debris that might be a hazard. Abandoned vehicles will be immediately removed from shoulders, they say.

The New Jersey Turnpike has suspended toll collection on the Garden State Parkway in its coastal section between Cape May and Woodbridge.

The New York State Thruway Authority's most vulnerable portion seems to be the long Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson at Tarrytown but NYSTA has no warnings on that.

Frederick MD: As for TOLLROADSnews here on the northern outskirts of the Washington/Baltimore area we've tested out an old 5000W gasoline generator that completely neglected, collected dust for years in the garage.

Miraculously in a test run this morning its single cylinder Subaru OHC engine fired up nicely, albeit with a bit of bad black smoke and awful noise for half a minute or so, but the crap worked out of its system, it then buzzed quiet and clean. And we're stocked up with Fresca from Cola Cola, dog food, and Yuengling Lager.

Sorry, we are not at all "braced" or "bracing-for" as so many cliche-ridden reports would have us.

As of about midnight here Sunday there's no drama to report. Just a cold drizzle. Temperatures have dropped during the day from 60F to 40F.

No doubt a hurricane is approaching, but there's no wind at all. Nothing. It is eerily calm. The classic 'calm before the storm,' we guess.

TOLLROADSnews 2012-10-28

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