Delays Expected When Tram Resumes in Fall
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Even after the Roosevelt Island tram reopens this fall, the 9,500 residents of the island can expect sporadic to lengthy shutdowns of the aerial service over the next several years as the entire system is overhauled, officials said yesterday.
The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation said it would reopen the tram in the next few months with two fully repaired drives and a new diesel backup engine. But with about $15 million in funding pledged by the state, the corporation also plans to modernize the entire system over an undetermined number of years, retooling tramcars, cables, and engines.
The tram suspended operations on April 18 after 68 passengers, including several infants, were stranded above the river and Manhattan’s East Side for up to 12 hours. A police-led rescue managed to bring everyone to safety using a small diesel-powered cage and a crane.
In the wake of the incident, there were calls for the tram to be permanently mothballed, but most residents are in favor of reopening it. “We need this tram,” the secretary of the Roosevelt Island Residential Association, Sherie Helstien, said. The F train stop on the island has been so crowded in the mornings since the tram shut down that residents sometimes have to wait for one or two trains to pass to get a ride.
The president of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, Herb Berman, said he was working with Council Member Jessica Lappin to get funding for a ferry service or a fleet of water taxis to help residents commute while the corporation repairs and renovates the tram system.
Officials also released details yesterday about how the system failed. The electrical system of the generator was “internally flawed,” the senior engineering consultant contracted by the corporation, Jim Fletcher, said. The drive operating the tram failed after a wire shorted out, blowing fuses. Because the manufacturer had improperly wired the drive, it refused to restart, Mr. Fletcher said.
The backup generator did not work because of dirt in the wiring and leaks in the hydrostatic pumps, according to engineering reports. Mr. Berman said tests show the system is now in basic working order, but it will take months to complete all the needed repairs.