“What’s That Huge Plug For?” Or, MTA’s Possible Plans for the Next Big Storm.


If you can’t beat ’em, plug ’em.

That’s the m.o. of a research team at West Virginia University for a project known as the “Resilient Tunnel Plug.” To tell you the truth, the name says it all. The 32-foot-long (16.2-foot-wide) object would act like a plunger in a giant leaking toilet bowl: In its last test, it withstood 35,000 gallons of water hitting it at a thousand gallons per minute.

The $400,000 big ballon-like plug inflates itself to fit said tunnel and is made of synthetic fiber to keep water out so it can be pumped dry in a fast and efficient matter. Also, according to Gothamist‘s Rebecca Fishbein, the plug can deflate like an air bed and fit into small spaces. In other words, you can take this thing anywhere you go!

With all this being said, it’s easy to see why the MTA is thinking about picking up a few of these puppies before the next Superstorm hits. Once again, if you can’t beat ’em (that ’em now costing the agency $5 billion or so), plug ’em.

As of now, the Daily News reports this idea is only under consideration; if you head down into a subway tomorrow, you unfortunately won’t see the Plug of a Lifetime. However, it seems as if the WVU research team is still apt to conduct more tests to confirm that the damn things actually work. Regardless, we’ll throw it on our options list.

But, also on that list are steel floodgates for the PATH trains; a project which was approved years ago by the Port Authority and will be finished by 2014. Hopefully, these protective measures will sustain the troubled lines that only returned to Downtown Manhattan this past Monday.

Other ideas include custom-made enclosures that would latch onto subway tunnels in times of peril, a few more pump trains added to the arsenal and a system that would lock air vents as flooding approached. It’s safe to say that none of these things would cost anywhere near $400,000.

But c’mon, that plug sure does look resilient, right?