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MTA unveils boro flood fixes

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A year after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a report detailing much-needed fixes in the wake of the August 2007 storm that crippled the city's mass transit system for eight hours, transit brass gathered in Jamaica to announce the progress on their plan.

It includes installing raised ventilation grates along flood-prone stretches of track like the F line on Hillside Avenue and the Q, R and V lines at 65th Street in Woodside and 36th and Steinway streets in Astoria.

Hillside Avenue, identified in the report as the most flood-prone length of track in the entire subway system, will get roughly 240 of the new grates, which feature wavelike contours and a single-person bench. They will replace some of the 1,000 conventional ventilation grates currently in place.

The other grates are not located at crucial flooding spots, said John O'Grady, an engineer with the MTA's Capital Project Management Office.

The raised grates will allow for ventilation underground without letting water cascade through onto subway platforms below.

The prototype for the grates was designed by Rogers Marvel, a Manhattan architectural firm. Rob Rogers, the principal architect, said he chose to incorporate curves that call to mind the swirling water the grates are designed to keep above ground.

"Let it be a design element that features the problem as well as the beginning of the solution," he said. "The form is evocative of the issue."

The design of the grates will be different in each neighborhood, Rogers said.

The cost for the Hillside and Steinway projects would be several million dollars apiece, O'Grady said.

Sander, who grew up by the 179th Street subway station on the F line, said flooding in Jamaica is nothing new.

"Mom reminded me that in bad storms she would have to pick up my father at Continental [Avenue] and 71st [Avenue] because the line was always closed," he said.

"I certainly am happy to see this for Queens residents," said MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger, who also grew up in the borough.

In addition to the new grates, the MTA also announced it had either implemented or started to work on the bulk of the report's recommendations, including using Doppler radar to track the weather, improving interagency communication and concentrating staff at key locations during storms. An e-mail and text-message alert system for commuters is slated to go online in October.

Sander touted the subway line's performance during recent Tropical Storm Hanna as an example of how procedures and communications have improved the MTA's response to heavy weather since 2007's big storm.

"The F was down for about 15 minutes," he said. "There's no question that in the past it would have been out for hours."

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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