Metro-North will operate on a Saturday schedule until further notice as crews work to repair damage caused by a fire Tuesday evening in New York City.
In an update around 2 p.m. Wednesday, Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan said crews are working around the clock to make temporary repairs to the Park Avenue Viaduct in Manhattan, damaged by a four-alarm fire on Tuesday evening.
Trains operated on a Saturday schedule Wednesday. Commuters reported crowded trains and delays after the railroad reduced the number of trains running because the damage has rendered two of the four trains unusable. Delays of more than an hour to an hour and a half were being reported Wednesday afternoon, during normally off-peak hours.
Service updates are being posted at mta.info.
Repairs and testing are expected to take 24 to 48 hours, according to the Wednesday afternoon update.
The fire underneath the viaduct caused structural damage to one steel supporting column and three adjacent horizontal steel girders that run east-west along the width of the underside of the viaduct and are known in engineering terminology as floor beam stringers, according to Metro-North. Because of the structural damage, Metro-North has taken the inside two of the four tracks on the viaduct out of service, and put a speed restriction in place on the two outside tracks.
Scores of workers from Metro-North’s engineering division are installing six temporary steel columns that will surround the damaged column and connect to it and to one another, Donovan reported. Once in place, the seven columns, braced together, will function as a single structure that will bear the weight of the overhead viaduct until permanent repairs can be put in place.
As soon as the temporary repairs are completed, Metro-North will perform structural tests including the impact of train movement over the viaduct. If testing proves successful, restricted speed train service could then resume over the tracks that are currently out of service. The construction and testing process is expected to take 24 to 48 hours to complete.
The fire did not cause any damage to Metro-North’s tracks, signals, or third rail power systems. The damaged column, located near the centerline of the viaduct, is an older, multi-piece “built-up” column design notable for its lattice-like steel appearance; portions of the column date to the initial construction of the viaduct in the 19th century, according to Metro-North. Columns on the east and west sides of the viaduct, which were put in place by Metro-North in the 1990s, are a newer design consisting of single monolithic blocks; they were not damaged by the fire.