Nosy Neighbor: What’s This Two-Year Subway Construction Project?

Franklin 1 station stairwell work signI recently noticed this sign in the Franklin Street 1 station. Two years and $18.4 million to modify the entrances to accommodate flood-proof barriers at six stations. Seems like a lot, no? No idea if they will be closing them down or what in the meantime. —R.

Flex-gate_1Leaving aside the question of whether the cost is appropriate—because heck if I know—let’s focus on what the construction entails. “This project is part of our ongoing efforts to fortify the system against future severe weather events after Sandy,” emailed an MTA rep in response to my query, pointing out that a description of the work is on the MTA’s Capital Dashboard:

This project will furnish and install flood protection measures on public stairwells at six subway stations in Upper and Lower Manhattan that are vulnerable to Coastal Storm Flooding. The featured protection is retractable tension fabric barriers (Flexgate).

The stations affected are Franklin Street and Canal Street (1); Canal Street (N/Q/R); Canal Street (A/C/E); Canal Street (6); 145th Street (3). There’s no timeline yet for the work. The MTA said that they’ll try to make it as easy on us as possible:

We do not close entire stations for work on stairwells unless the stairwell work is part of an overall station renewal project where major and critical parts of the station are under repair (platform work, for example). We also do not close stairwells for work during certain hours of the day—we close stairwells during specific hours if they lead only to part-time exits, for example.

As for exactly what’s happening, here’s a description from the ILC Dover Stairwell Flex-Gate Brochure (via this page): “The Flex-Gate functions similarly to a roll-up storefront security door in that it resides in a small container and is pulled across the opening when an event occurs. The flexible cover travels in guides during deployment, and seals against them when challenged with water.” This rendering helps:

Flex-Gate deployed renderingAnd then here’s a step-by-step description of how it works:

1. Open tamperproof step and guiderail plates.
2. Crank cover to closed position using supplied ratchet.
3. Lock end sealing plate & deploy entrance guard
4. Reverse procedure to open system

From an ILC Dover press release: “In less than five minutes a single operator can deploy the cover and lock it down, and once deployed, the engineered system can hold back 14 feet of water. This rapidly deployable approach eliminates the need to store critical components at a remote location, and allows the subway system to remain operational for as long as possible prior to the storm onset.”

Got a question? Email it to or call/text 917-209-6473.

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