Amtrak is taking a close look at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s possibly-disaster-averting new L train repair strategy as a “common sense solution” for their own damaged tunnels between Manhattan and Queens, the Daily News reports. The agency would, of course, subject the tunnel fix to more scrutiny before making a decision. Amtrak chairman Anthony Coscia said “It is important for us to do a thorough vetting so that we can determine now at this stage whether it’s a methodology that we could use. Because if it is, it will make the process far less painful to our travelers,” much like the new subway solution would allegedly be.
Though Amtrak’s $14 billion Gateway project involving tunnels beneath the Hudson River between Penn Station and New Jersey gets lots of ink, the agency’s East River tunnels linking Penn Station to Long Island City used by Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road and NJ Transit trains on their way to the Sunnyside Yards also sustained damages from Hurricane Sandy. Amtrak’s plan has been to demolish the interiors of two East River tunnels and rebuild them completely in an undertaking similar to the original L train plan. Like that plan, a working version of Cuomo’s idea would represent a total re-imagining of the project.
What’s more, Amtrak officials wonder if the new solution could work on the Gateway project’s Hudson River tunnels. While Sandy flooding in the Hudson tunnels wasn’t as bad in Amtrak’s East River tunnels, the former had severe structural issues even before the hurricane hit. And the engineers who hit on the new L train repair idea have also visited the damaged Hudson River tunnels.
As 6sqft reported last week, instead of demolishing the bench walls to remove the old cables, the new L train plan leaves the cables in place, which would reduce the amount of construction work needed. Any unstable bench walls will be removed and weakened ones will be reinforced with a polymer wrap. According to Mary Boyce, Dean of Columbia Engineering, the new design achieves all functional outcomes as the previous plan, but reduces the amount of work needed.
Joseph Clift, a former LIRR planner advocating for better budgeting on the Gateway project, says Cuomo’s think-out-of-the-box solution could allow Amtrak to completely avoid the need for building a new tunnel under the Hudson River, which could justify canceling the Gateway project altogether. “The only excuse for spending that money that they give is to allow the old tubes to be repaired. If they can do the repair work, a la the L train, then that project has no argument for existing.”
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