Tram Maintenance to Cause Shutdown and Closure of Center Platform

February 22, 2019

New resident impacts to the ongoing $2.1 million tram maintenance work now include four days where there will be no tram service at all. Additionally, concerns about safety have mandated expansion of the work area to include the center platform area in both stations; they could be closed as early as this Sunday. As a result, while the south side work is ongoing, the Manhattan side tram elevator will be closed.


Mike McGuckin, operations and maintenance manager for Leitner-Poma, RIOC’s Tram contractor, who will perform the work, explained at last night’s Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation Operations Advisory Committee that they have to move the track ropes that actually carry the tram – there are two per tram – characterizing it as, “a highly complex process.”


Safety regulations require this maintenance every eight years, the Tram’s track cables must be “slipped” or moved slightly to alleviate the places where there is significant wear. On days that they are actually slipping the ropes, the second tram won’t run.


Four Individual Shutdowns


There are two ropes per tram, and to move them, all of the rope of each tower must be released and inspected. While doing that work, McGuckin said, “It’s just too dangerous to have the other tram running.” Further action may be necessary depending on how the ropes test, though he predicts that they “should be able to get [one] done in a day,” hedging that, “If there are hang-ups I am going to stop it and take a look.”


 Current work site on the Roosevelt Island side


Prince Shah, a project manager for RIOC clarified that the tram will shut down for a minimum of four days during the duration of the work to account for the four ropes and that they won't be sequential. Shelton Haynes, RIOC's chief operating officer said POMA would be able to give 48 hours notice prior to each shutdown and that RIOC would put out an advisory alerting residents. Residents can sign up to receive RIOC advisories here


The work will take place during the day, starting as soon as sun comes up, and ending when it goes down, said McGuckin who described their task as, “Let out [cable] on the Island side, go to Manhattan to bring it in.” He said the spare rope, seen in the Roosevelt Island station, is what’s holding everything together on the Island side, and they will need to “slowly feed it and slip it over every tower.”  


Closure of the Center Platforms


This work will also require closure of the center platforms. McGurckin said, “Due to procedure adjustments, we have to put rigging in areas that are public right now.” Shah explained that the ropes run very low and run over the center of the platform. He said that for this kind of overhead ropeway work, the “ropes are above where people would be standing.”


When the team starts work on the south cabin, the tram elevator will be located in their work site and will be closed. RIOC President Susan Rosenthal said that though they will communicate out the dates of tram shutdowns and elevator outages to alert those who rely on the elevator to use other transportation methods, that if someone were to ride the tram who would need the elevator, “there would be a stop of work in order to operate the elevator.”


 North side at the Manhattan station


Such Thing as a Free Ride


The good news though is that for some of this time, work area will encompass the turnstile locations, and tram rides will be free. Shah said, “There will be times a metrocard swipe will be inaccessible on both ends.”


Instead of involving the MTA, and moving the turnstiles, Rosenthal said, “for the period of time [turnstiles are in the work site] we will not be collecting fares.” Her chief financial officer, John O’Reilly predicts a revenue loss of $750,000. He said that “The Tram has made some money in January. We think we will be in a loss position by the end of March.”


The duration of the project that started a week ago has not been impacted and it is still slated to last 12 weeks.


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