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New York subways roll, but road to recovery will be long ... and costly

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Mr. Mulhern was then the director of subway operations at the MBTA when the flood took place. About six stations on Boston’s Green Line, a light rail operation, filled with water. While some service was restored within a week, it was a full year, he says, before the system was back at full capacity.

“That was fresh water,” recalls Mulhern in an interview. “Salt water worsens the situation.”

To get the New York subways up and running, the salt water will have to be pumped out, which is happening. Debris will have to be removed. Then, Mulhern says, the system will have to be power washed with fresh water.

“Then you have to step back and ask what has been damaged and must be replaced,” he says. “It is likely that a lot of the subsystems need to be replaced.”

In addition to replacing the vital system of signals that subway drivers rely on, some stations may require new escalators or elevators to help the disabled negotiate the system. Turnstiles and fare-dispensing machines may need to be replaced.

“Some of these things are not items you buy off the shelf,” he says.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is likely to have some items in its inventory, says transit expert Kathryn Waters, a vice president at the American Public Transit Association, a lobbying group in Washington.

However, Ms. Waters, who was second in command at the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore, says she found that the manufacturers of some of the equipment Maryland used had gone out of business. “Sometimes you can use a substitute, sometimes you have custom work done,” she says.

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