Since noon Thursday, A trains have been rolling in the Rockaways once again, ending seven months of lengthy commutes for thousands of residents living on the Hurricane Sandy-damaged peninsula. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.
Rush hour commuters stepped off the A train Thursday at the Beach 116th Street station, an old habit resuming for the first time since Hurricane Sandy took out subway service in the Rockaways last year.
"Fantastic," said one commuter. "I'm glad to have the A train back."
The October storm crippled more than three miles of the A train tracks that link the Rockaways to the rest of the city, creating a huge rebuilding challenge for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and chaos for commuters.
"It's kind of a relief to have our train back," said one commuter. "We complained about it for so long, and then we took the bus."
Now, after seven months of commutes that were trickier than usual, more than 30,000 straphangers can again ride the A train following a $75 million restoration job to a nearly four-mile stretch of the line.
Restoring subway service to and from the Rockaways was an enormous undertaking for the MTA, which had to restore stations and critical equipment before the trains could get going again. In fact, workers spent a month removing 3,000 tons of debris from the tracks.
"This was an all-out, seven-month, day-and-night effort to rebuild three-and-a-half miles of the A train service coming across Jamaica Bay," said Thomas Prendergast, the interim executive director of the MTA.
Service along the entire stretch of the devastated line returned just before noon, as riders enjoyed the scenic ride across Jamaica Bay for the first time since last fall.
Officials had initially hoped to have the full A line restored by the end of June, but the job got done a month early.
"I didn't expect it to happen so soon," said one straphanger. "I'm thrilled. I had to come out here and be among the first."
On Friday, the A train and the Rockaway Shuttle will be running in time for the morning rush, a trip to work that will likely include far less grumbling than it has for a while.