Friday, May 30, 2014

Coming construction: delayed West Portal for LIRR means shutting down Atlantic Avenue lane (for 10 months?), closing sidewalk, major equipment

The next Atlantic Yards Quality of Life Committee meeting, at 6 pm on June 3, will be held at the YWCA Community Room, 30 3rd Avenue. According to Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards, the meeting will include "some critical construction updates."
Partial closure of Atlantic Avenue announced in 2006
for construction of West Portal; more details below

That's an understatement.

From what I've heard, and my information is indirect and incomplete because they don't send out an agenda and there's no real oversight, a frenzy of activity is slated around the arena block, with traffic lane shutdowns on Atlantic Avenue and possibly Flatbush Avenue.

The frenzy involves tower construction, railyard work, and a huge new green roof on the Barclays Center, the latter proclaimed to be beautification but also clearly an effort at damage control.

All this seems timed to start after the under-the-radar joint venture with the Chinese government-owned Greenland Group closes in June.

West Portal in purple at top of center block
I'll write soon about the overall plans, but first want to focus on the significant construction planned for Atlantic Avenue at Sixth Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue work planned

The work will create the West Portal, a direct passage from the railyard into the Atlantic Terminal Long Island Rail Road station, which was supposed to have been finished while the arena was being built.

It's aimed to save time and to bolster safety, security, and flexibility. (Currently trains stored and serviced in the yard first must travel east of the railyard, then reverse direction.)

I believe they'll closing a lane on Atlantic Avenue for months, compressing eastbound traffic into two lanes, eliminating parking on the north side, and eliminating left turns onto South Portland Avenue from eastbound Atlantic Avenue traffic.

From March 2010 agreement between MTA/LIRR & Forest City Ratner

That may also mean closure of Sixth Avenue between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. That was anticipated as of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in November 2006, but no specific plans have been since announced.

A trench across some traffic lanes and the sidewalk on the south side of Atlantic would be open--at least according to plans disclosed in 2006--for ten months. Noisy equipment like an excavator, backhoe, cherry picker, and hoe ram would be used. The West Portal work would require 15 trucks a day.

This was all supposed to happen during the first phase of construction, when the arena block and the upgraded railyard were being built--but that phase was disaggregated to save Forest City Ratner money. No towers were built, and the developer got the Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Long Island Rail Road to agree to have a smaller temporary yard persist for an extended period.

None of this coming construction work has been officially disclosed, since the pending, court-ordered Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) applies only to Phase 2, east of Sixth Avenue, and assumes Phase 1 as a "background condition." Which it's not, since it's incomplete.

What it might look like during West Portal construction

The graphics below are from the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement. I don't know how much the plans have been modified.

Atlantic Yards Final EIS
From Final EIS
A look at the (once-planned) new railyard

The graphic below, in the "existing" configuration as of 2006, showed the railyard storage function in the western third of the railyard, since taken for the arena site.

The "proposed" configuration shows the new West Portal just east of Sixth Avenue. Also note that, in the "proposed" graphic, the finished railyard to the east, as proposed in 2006, would contain nine tracks. Now it would contain seven. As of now there's a temporary railyard.

Atlantic Yards Final EIS
Construction plans: a ten-month trench?

The Final EIS, Chapter 17, Construction, describes what was planned during Phase 1; that didn't happen, so what's described below likely has been adjusted somewhat:
THE WEST PORTAL
The West Portal would connect the new Vanderbilt Yard to the Atlantic Terminal, located on the south side of Atlantic Avenue at Block 1120. Construction of the West Portal would be a “cut and cover” operation, which involves opening a large trench across several of the traffic lanes and the sidewalk on the south side of Atlantic Avenue. The trench would be too wide to be covered by steel plates and would be open for about a 10-month period in late 2008 and into 2009. At all times, at least two eastbound and three westbound lanes of traffic on Atlantic Avenue would be open. The method of maintaining traffic during this time and the potential impacts are discussed below in the “Traffic” section of this chapter. After the subterranean utilities are relocated and the structural steel installed for the West Portal, the trench would be closed, and traffic lanes reopened. After the cut and cover trench is closed, all work would be underground inside the tunnel and not noticeable to area workers, residents, or visitors. During construction of the West Portal, several measures would be taken to prevent damage and disruption to the LIRR tracks in and out of Atlantic Terminal. Walls would be erected to separate the main line tracks from the work within the West Portal area. The wiring for power and signals would be moved out of or away from the West Portal work area. During the opening of the existing tunnel wall, the work would be undertaken at night, when the tracks are not in use. In addition, a false wall to separate the existing tunnel from the active tracks would be installed to prevent any materials or debris from spilling onto the tracks.
(All emphases added)

As indicated in the graphic below, the work would start in the western third of Block 1120. Also note that the 100-foot-wide plot of land east of Sixth Avenue was supposed to serve as a "Construction Coordination Center," at least when four towers were being built along with the arena.
From the Final EIS; note that Sixth Avenue Bridge was not reconstructed
Workers and equipment

According to the FEIS:
The number of construction workers would vary depending on the actual construction operation, but would generally number between 20 and 30. The equipment would consist of backhoes, excavators, mobile cranes, cherry pickers, dump trucks, concrete trucks and many small hand tools. The West Portal would be opened with excavators, which would place the excavated materials onto dump trucks for disposal. Then the foundations and walls would be built with reinforced concrete. About 15 trucks per day would be needed for this work on the West Portal. Steel girders would then be placed to form the roof of the West Portal and the base of the reconstructed Atlantic Avenue. The steel girders would be placed with mobile cranes and bolted into place. Atlantic Avenue would then be repaved to New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) specifications and standards.
Here's a look at the equipment projected to be needed (click to enlarge):
From Draft EIS (and also in Final EIS)
Impact on traffic and pedestrians

According to the Final EIS:
....In addition, because of the temporary narrowing of Atlantic Avenue necessitated by the 6th Avenue Bridge reconstruction and the construction of the LIRR West Portal, the eastbound left-turn movement at this location would need to be temporarily eliminated to maintain two through traffic lanes. This left-turn traffic to South Portland Avenue (opposite 6th Avenue) north of Atlantic Avenue would be diverted to either South Oxford Street or Carlton Avenue. Furthermore, some of the “drop- off” areas in front of Atlantic Center would be displaced temporarily to accommodate the shifting of Atlantic Avenue traffic lanes. At the same time, because maintaining a pedestrian sidewalk across the 6th Avenue Bridge construction area may not be feasible, the east and west crosswalks at the intersection may also be temporarily closed. Along the east side of Flatbush Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Dean Street, utility installation would require the temporary taking of the curb lane. To maintain peak traffic flow along Flatbush Avenue, this closure may need to be limited to only off-peak or nighttime hours. The appropriate MPT for this roadway segment would be determined in consultation with DOT.
...As shown in Figures 17a-1 to 17a-6, sidewalk closures would occur throughout construction, particularly along the south side of Atlantic Avenue. In most cases, overhead protections on existing sidewalks or temporary sidewalks would be provided to standards agreed upon by DOT to maintain pedestrian flow. However, during Phases 1A and 1B when bridge reconstruction over the LIRR rail yard and the construction of the LIRR West Portal are scheduled to take place, it would be optimal to discontinue pedestrian flow through certain construction zones along Atlantic Avenue and to temporarily close the crosswalks connecting to these areas.
Lane/sidewalk closures

These were planned when Phase 1 was much more extensive so, again, I'm not sure exactly what's planned now:
From FEIS
 Note that the green indicates the shutdown of lanes at Sixth and Atlantic Avenues.
From FEIS
Previous hints

The beginning of needed work has actually been disclosed in two previous Atlantic Yards Construction Alerts. For example, the 4/14/14 Construction Alert indicated:
Test Pit work on Atlantic Avenue in the area of 6th Avenue will continue during this reporting period. Work is being performed in connection work that will be taking place in LIRR Yard. The test pits consist of small area excavations, with the purpose of the location of underground structures and utilities. The excavations will be plated and/or patched over at the end of each work day. Contractor is using saw cutters and excavator to perform the work. All work is performed in accordance with DOT permits which require that the work be performed at night (10 pm to 6 am). Work will be performed, between the time frame of March 24, 2014 and April 23, 2014. No weekend work is anticipated at this time. Part of the work may impact street side access to the Atlantic Avenue bus stop at the southeast corner of the intersection of 6th Avenue. Work dates will be coordinated with Arena operations.
Another alert reported that the work would be done "during the overnight of April 2nd and April 3rd." At the hearing on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, several people commented on the disruptiveness of such work.

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