The MTA’s transit boss declared war on gravity on Friday, pledging to do everything humanly or mechanically possible to keep debris from falling from elevated subway tracks after a series of high profile incidents.
Byford’s multi-pronged strategy involves closer inspections to find debris before it falls — as well as new basket and netting designs to catch it when it does.
“I take this very seriously,” he told reporters during a media availability in the Bronx. “Even one thing falling is one too many.”
Byford has faced a spate of falling debris incidents this year, although he said the number of incidents has remained steady year-over-year.
After a giant piece of metal fell from the A train track in Queens through a livery cab’s rear window-shield on Oct. 29, transit workers conducted a system-wide inspection of all 325,000 elevated track debris-containment baskets.
On Friday, Byford’s just-appointed Chief Track Officer Terri Rumph showed off new basket-style retainers that can be installed from above the track — without impacting road traffic — and will more effectively catch falling debris than the current design.
Rumph and Byford also touted a new bolt design that features a “hard lock nut” to prevent loosening over time.
The MTA’s upcoming capital plan includes $325 million to roll out debris-stopping measures across the subway’s 60 miles of elevated tracks. Transit officials are currently testing out netting designs, with the hope that they can be rolled out system-wide.
Even then, Byford said his team faces an uphill battle.
“We are doing our damnedest to stop these incidents from even happening,” he said — while admitting he could not “guarantee” success.
“We’re basically fighting gravity,” he said.
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