New York still reeling in Sandy's wake

(CBS News) Three days after superstorm Sandy swept through, New York City is still reeling in her wake.

The city's roads were gridlocked Wednesday as commuters were forced to travel above ground, which turned Manhattan's streets into parking lots -- a telling sign of just how badly the city needs its mass transit system back.

One commuter said, "The traffic was terrible, man. It takes about 45 minutes to go four blocks. Horrible."

New York's subways return to service for 1st time since superstorm Sandy
Pictures: Before and after views of Sandy destruction

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a transportation emergency Wednesday. The subway system is back on track, but service is very limited. Thursday morning, 14 out of 23 subway lines will begin operating, but none will be able to run through 34th Street in Manhattan and into Brooklyn. Multiple tunnels and stations in that area remain flooded with seawater.

Joe Leader oversees maintenance for the Metropolitan Transit Authority. He showed CBS News some of the damage at the hardest hit station -- South Ferry at the southern tip of Manhattan.

Leader said at least two levels water still obstruct access to the station's tracks. Leader estimates at least a week to pump out the water, which is only the first step.

"The assessment afterwards is going to be very difficult," he said. "These escalators will have to be taken apart, the elevators will have to be looked at, controls will have to be changed out."

In the meantime, the city is doing what they can to relieve congestion -- made much worse in Lower Manhattan where 227,000 customers are still without power.

New York's taxi rules were modified, allowing drivers to pick up more than one passenger at a time. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that seven major routes into the city would be limited to vehicles carrying three or more people.

Bloomberg said, "I know it is inconvenient for a lot of people, but the bottom line is the streets can only handle so much."

For Jim Axelrod's full report, watch the video in the player above.

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