Second Batch Of Subway Cars Lowered To Reef

OCEAN CITY – The latest batch of retired New York City subway cars were dropped on the Bass Grounds as planned early yesterday morning, becoming the latest addition to the growing artificial reef system of the coast of the resort.

After a couple of days of delays and postponements caused by rough, windy conditions off the coast, 46 of the retired “Red Bird” subway cars were dropped on the Bass Grounds reef site early yesterday morning. A barge carrying the subway cars from New York rendezvoused with local and state artificial reef officials around 7:30 a.m. yesterday and began deploying the latest additions to Ocean City’s artificial reef system.

“Everything went off without a hitch,” said Ocean City Reef Foundation Administrator Marta Beman. “They were lowered over an area of about three miles. Some were lowered individually, and others were lowered in clusters of five.”

The original plan was to deploy the new batch of subway cars last Friday, but weather conditions locally and in New York moved the target date back several times throughout the weekend. Last week, high winds and rough seas prevented the barge carrying the cars from leaving the harbor in New York.

On the local side, the plan all along was to deploy the subway cars on the existing Bass Grounds reef site, but concerns about the weather last weekend led officials to consider lowering the 46 cars on Russell’s Reef, which is closer to shore. When conditions improved mid-week, the cars were deployed on the Bass Grounds as originally planned.

The batch of 46 more cars is the second installment of retired New York City subway cars expected to be deployed off the coast of Ocean City under the direction of the Ocean City Reef Foundation along with its partners the Maryland Artificial Reef Foundation (MARI), the town of Ocean City, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and New York City Transit.

The Ocean City Reef Foundation started raising funds for the project a year ago when it learned as many as 600 of the retired subway cars would become available for artificial reefs off the coast of Maryland. The fundraising efforts got a major jumpstart with a $50,000 private donation from fishing enthusiasts Jack and Susan Power, whose generous gift was used to fund the first barge containing 44 of the cars.

Funding for the second batch of 46 cars lowered on the Bass Grounds was largely by private donations and several of the private donors tagged along on the “Judith M” yesterday, according to Beman.

At an estimated cost of around $700 per car, the barge-load of 46 new cars headed to Ocean City cost around $32,000. When the project reaches fruition, over 600 retired subway cars could find their way to the bottom of the ocean off the coast of the resort.

Maryland is in a rotation with several other mid-Atlantic states as recipients of the retired subway cars including New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia along with others. The first batch went down off the coast of Ocean City in May with the second batch deployed yesterday. Beman said the cycle will likely repeat itself until the supply of subway cars is exhausted.

“We just got our latest batch, so it’s kind of like we go to the back of the line and work our way up to the front again,” she said. “There are more states vying for these things now, so the competition has gotten tighter, but they are pretty fair in terms of doling them out. We might see another batch as early as next spring.”

In the meantime, the Reef Foundation is continuing its fundraising effort for the cars in earnest in an effort to ensure the money is in place if and when Maryland’s turn in the rotation comes up again.

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