The dreaded 15-month L train shutdown, planned and studied for three years, is canceled. Or is it? Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday presented a proposal for a new L train plan that would no longer require a 15-month closure of the Carnasie Tunnel, the link between Manhattan and Brooklyn and which was damaged by saltwater floods during Hurricane Sandy. During the news conference, Cuomo, along with a panel of experts, engineers, and the acting chair of the MTA, Fernando Ferrer, touted the project as being the shortest and best way to fix the tunnel. But in a conference call with reporters on Friday, the governor called on the MTA board to hold an emergency meeting to vote yay or nay on his new plan, of which most had heard about on the same day it was announced.
“I am calling on them to have a meeting, have a meeting right away, make it a public meeting, let the public hear the plan,” Cuomo said during Friday’s call. “Because New Yorkers, God bless them, can be a little skeptical and I can see why they would be skeptical in this situation.”
Despite years of research and planning for the impending shutdown, originally scheduled for the end of April, Cuomo’s task force found (and which the MTA accepted), just three months before the planned closure, that both tunnels can remain open. Repair work will instead take place on one tunnel at a time on nights and weekends, for up to 20 months, which will make the L train run every 15 to 20 minutes during that time.
As 6sqft reported on Thursday, instead of demolishing the bench walls to remove the old cables, the new plan leaves the cables there, which would reduce the amount of construction work needed, Mary Boyce, the Dean of Columbia Engineering. Any unstable bench walls will be removed and weakened ones will be reinforced with a polymer wrap. Boyce told reporters that the new design achieves all functional outcomes as the previous plan, but reduces the amount of work needed.
The city has conducted numerous meetings and studies regarding alternative transit options, and real estate prices along the subway line have suffered. And questions remain as to why this new, about-face plan was announced just months before the shutdown was planned, after years of the MTA warning of the necessity of the tunnel rebuild.
In a press release, the MTA accepted the recommendations of Cuomo’s panel. “We have a shared goal in this effort: to make sure New Yorkers are subjected to the least possible disruptions as a result of this necessary repair work,” Ferrer said.
“With the L Project, and all our major projects, we’re consistently looking for new and innovative methods, and the guidance and recommendations we have received today will ease the strain on customers and help us ensure we are providing a consistently reliable service.”
According to Cuomo, the MTA board will have to first vote to “pursue the plan,” and then make adjustments, including things like the prior deal worked out with the contractor. “It’s up to the MTA board and those 17 members which are appointed by various political entities and have their own perspectives,” Cuomo said on Friday.
In an interview Friday with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, Mayor Bill de Blasio who said he would like to know more information on the L train plan, but called it good news. “I hope when the smoke clears that we have something here that will actually improve the lives of every day New Yorkers.”
- Cuomo calls for last-minute halt of L train shutdown in favor of a new tunnel design
- Cuomo tours damaged L train tunnel four months before shutdown
- April 27, 2019: MTA announces start date for L train shutdown