J-Track LLC is the commuter’s equivalent of a masked superhero – frequently unseen, but instrumental in saving the day. As a company that specializes in end-to-end track and transit system construction services, J-Track is frequently the unsung hero in circumstances where flooding and water leaks threaten to grind to a halt the daily subway commute in metropolitan cities like New York and Washington, D.C.
This was the case recently when J-Track was hired to ensure that the Red Line of the Washington Metro rail rapid transit system would be better able to cope with torrential rains and flooding, as well as frequent water seepage. Flooding has been a perennial problem for the Red Line – last summer, flash floods caused commuter chaos, resulting in passengers having to wade through shin-high water, and one of the Red Line stations, Cleveland Park, was being bypassed because the water inundation was so severe that water was cascading down the escalators, causing them to short out. Storms are a major cause of the Washington Metro flooding, but the geographic placement of some of the Red Line stations, placed at the bottom of a hill, create a structural weakness when it comes to water seepage.
To address this issue in a more permanent fashion, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) hired J-Track to commence work in July 2017 on a pilot project that would use one of the company’s proprietary techniques, employing “curtain grouting” to add a waterproof membrane to the exterior of the Red Line’s tunnel walls using a polymer-based material that J-Track created.
“Since this tunnel segment was constructed, Metro has fought a battle against Mother Nature, and Mother Nature has always had the upper hand. Just as we have addressed the root causes of track infrastructure problems and railcar reliability issues, I want to address the water infiltration problem head on and find a sustainable solution. Our Red Line riders deserve nothing less,” said Washington Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld in a WMATA news release about the project.
WMATA hired J-Track based on its extensive work using the same solution to seal in-ground water inflows for mining industry tunnels, as well as its work on the South Ferry/Whitehall Street subway station in New York City after Hurricane Sandy. The company’s areas of expertise span track, concrete, excavation, signal and power work, and it also performs design work, general contracting, and construction management, according to its website. Curtain grouting in particular is a process that mitigates water leaks and seepage by adding a rubber-like membrane to the outside of a concrete tunnel wall.
“To [install the curtain grouting], holes are drilled in the ceiling of the existing tunnel until the exterior of the tunnel is reached. From there, a proprietary polymer-based emulsion (PBE) grout is injected into the hole at high pressure, which begins cascading down the curved exterior of the tunnel (like the way chocolate syrup cascades down an ice cream sundae). Two holes are drilled every 10 feet for the injections. The holes are then sealed at the conclusion of the process. The injected material forms a rubberlike impenetrable membrane, or ‘curtain’ between the exterior of the tunnel wall and the surrounding ground medium,” notes a WMATA news release.
J-Track was hired by WMATA to employ this technique in two different environments within the Red Line, one in a linear-bored tunnel segment and another in an interlocking tunnel area where the space for the tunnel was created by blasting rock to create a cavern within which to construct the subway tunnel. The work on the tunnels is being done as a pilot in these two locations to assess whether this technique could serve as a solution for the broader system of tunnels. WMATA plans to evaluate the results of the pilot in the autumn of 2017 during the rainy season, when hydrostatic pressure builds and water seepage and flooding is more likely.
The company’s success in winning innovative contracts such as the WMATA pilot project is based on its wide-ranging experience in transit and construction work. Founded by a team with over 70 years of combined experience, J-Track performs railroad track work, civil construction, and architectural work for a number of government agencies engaged in public transportation. J-Track has bid on and won a variety of projects in the New York region, including new track construction and new building construction as well as building modifications, interior fit outs, and utility installations. The company’s staff includes professional engineers, project managers, superintendents, foremen, quality control managers and safety managers. Based out of College Point, NY, J-Track’s focus has historically been on projects in the New York region, though, as the WMATA project demonstrates, the firm has begun exploring other areas of the country for opportunities.
J-Track also leverages its deep relationships with its partners to ensure the best outcomes in all of its projects. On a number of occasions, J-Track has worked with partners like Garden State Engineering, Surveying and Planning, Inc. (GSESP), a privately owned firm of Engineers, Land Surveyors, Designers and CAD Technicians to complete projects in the New York State region. Established in 1990 as a small surveying company, GSESP employs over 75 people in all aspects of engineering and surveying. The firm provides professional services in the engineering, surveying and construction fields to a diversified clientele, including governmental and transportation agencies, industrial, energy and transmission, commercial, and residential clients. GSESP assisted J-Track in a large-scale project for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York (MTA). In 2011, MTA hired J-Track to make much-needed repairs and improvements to Brooklyn’s Culver Line including the rebuilding of the Viaduct structure and the renewal of its tracks, signals and switches. The work also encompassed a rehabilitation of the Smith-9th station and a restoration of platforms, canopies and the historic arch at the 4th Avenue-9th Street station.
This $275.5 million engineering and construction project was required to rehabilitate the steel and concrete viaduct that was first opened in 1933 as part of the Independent Subway System (IND), a rapid transit rail system in New York City that is now part of the New York City Subway. The project area stretches from the tunnel portal south of the Carroll Street station to the portal south of Fourth Avenue.
Another of J-Track’s milestone projects was its work on the construction of the new South Ferry subway station. Hit by Hurricane Sandy, the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, and the second-costliest hurricane in United States history, the station was destroyed by 15 million gallons of salt water and sewage that flooded 80 feet high from the tracks to the mezzanine of the station in October 2012. It destroyed all of the electrical and mechanical systems in the station, which was only two years old at the time. J-Track was chosen to play a lead role in the reconstruction of the station.
Five years after Sandy’s destruction, the $369 million project to reconstruct the station was complete, opening on time and on budget, and included the removal of damaged equipment and reinforced walls.
“In the hours and days after [Hurricane Sandy] hit, New Yorkers were reminded just how vulnerable we are to Mother Nature and how dependent the region is on the MTA,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota in an MTA news release. “That’s why our efforts to harden the system to guard against these vulnerabilities is so critical – not only for the transit network infrastructure itself, but for the regional economy and more than eight million customers who rely on us each today.”
The MTA news release further goes on to note that the reconstruction featured newly added hardening measures to protect the new station include retractable flood doors at station entrances and 6,000-pound steel marine flood doors throughout the station, as well as hardening of other entry points for water including vents, manholes, hatches, conduits, and air ducts.
What is next for J-Track? To be sure, the firm will continue to emphasize its gold standard for safety. For six years in a row, J-Track has been the recipient of the prestigious Gold Award from the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, Inc. (NRC) for the distinguished performance of its employees and management in the creation of a safe work environment. J-Track will also continue to focus on bidding and winning further jobs in the Tri-State areas of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, as well as exploring opportunities in other areas of the country, ever expanding its enviable portfolio of projects.