N, R subway lines resume normal service

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N and R subway trains, used by thousands of straphangers in northwestern Queens, have returned to normal service for the first time since the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack and months earlier than transit officials first predicted.

Normal except for the Cortlandt Street station, which N and R trains will bypass for the foreseeable future. The station is beneath Ground Zero and was pierced by a huge fragment plunging from one of the collapsing towers.

“Ridership on Monday was slightly lighter than usual on the N and R lines,” said Transit Authority spokeswoman Deidre Parker in reference to the first working day of the two lines’ restoration.

In any case, normalcy returned to the N and R lines much sooner than originally predicted by the New York City Transit Authority, which found N and R tunnels in Lower Manhattan choked by debris rather than badly damaged as had been feared by the collapse of the Twin Towers.

The Transit Authority had first suggested that bringing back the two lines might take at least six months rather than nearly seven weeks.

After Sept. 11, N line riders were cut off at 34th Street in Manhattan and R train patrons had no service at all in Queens or Manhattan.

The TA provided the new W line to replace the N in Queens and the M for straphangers who normally used the N in Brooklyn. As for the R line, it was replaced in Queens by the Q line and in Brooklyn by J trains.

The TA said about 800,000 riders use the N and R on a normal weekday.

The N and R resumed normal service at 5 a.m. Sunday for the first time since the Sept. 11 attack.

Following the restoration, conductors announced as trains approached Lower Manhattan there would be no stop at the Cortlandt Street station, which is lighted but shut down. A temporary sign reminds subway motormen: “Do Not Stop Here.” Timbers shore up the station ceiling as extra security.

TA engineers had used vibration-measuring instruments for weeks to determine whether the thousands of tons of debris from the Twin Towers collapse and the huge truckloads of debris under removal would pose a danger of collapsing in the Cortlandt Street station.

Restoration of the N, referred to by some straphangers as the Never line, and the R, called the Rarely, went a long way toward relieving some of the increased crowding on the Lexington line and on the Bowling Green station near Manhattan’s southern tip since Sept. 11.

The subway stations in the vicinity of the World Trade Center have been cleared of debris and cleaned, but there are reminders of the horror nearby. Some station stairways were dusted with light gray ash from fires that first raged seven weeks ago and continue to smolder deep in the monumental heap of rubble.

The most badly damaged are stations serving the Nos. 1 and 9 lines and transit officials say it might be years before they reopen.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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