While the NYC subway’s aging infrastructure gets an overhaul, another key mechanism supporting the subway will also need a major upgrade: its power supply. That’s the focus of a new New York Times feature that details the improvements Con Ed will need to make in conjunction with the MTA, in order to see some meaningful and impactful changes on the subway.
The problems with the power supply were brought to light in April this year. A Con Ed equipment failure at the Seventh Avenue station at 53rd Street caused delays that lasted the entire day. Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation into the matter, and while recently taking a group of reporters on a tour through the subway’s tunnels, revealed that Con Ed’s infrastructure also had to be improved.
The Times explains the situation very matter-of-factly:
To overhaul the system, Con Edison and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subway, will have to inspect 470 manholes, 1,100 boxes and 221 power substations at street level. Below ground, workers will have to examine 1,100 energy distribution rooms, 300 signal relay rooms, 15,000 track circuits, 11,000 signals, 13,750 insulated joints, 11,000 trip stops, 220 interlockings and 1,800 switch machines.
One of the major issues at stake is how the power reaches the subway. The power fluctuates throughout the course of the day, which makes no noticeable difference to most New Yorkers, but it does create problems for the subway’s ancient signal system.
The power is channeled through an MTA distribution room, this in turn helps power tracks and signals. The current signal system however is extremely sensitive, and a power fluctuation causes it go into safe mode, which means a light on the tracks will turn red, and in turn cause delays. Cuomo has asked the MTA and Con Ed to come with up with a solution to this, while still ensuring that it is a safe alternative.
All of these Con Ed repairs are not part of “state of emergency” funds Cuomo has set aside for the subway, but a Con Ed representative intimated to The Times that it would cost “tens of millions of dollars,” to carry out the repairs. Cuomo has given Con Ed one year to fix the problem.