Photo Courtesy of the Office of the Governor
Cuomo (r.) noted that the alternative plan for the L Train renovation “would be faster, better, and probably less expensive.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
In a stunning, nearly 11th-hour development, the dreaded L Train shutdown was granted clemency as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Thursday accepted the recommendations of a panel of experts from Columbia University and Cornell University engineering schools that determined a complete closure of the tunnel is unnecessary.
The report, which followed weeks of extensive review and analysis by the deans and faculty of the schools, presents a series of innovative engineering methods to streamline the required repair work and limit the impact on L Train service, one of the most widely used lines that provides 400,000 daily rides, according to the agency. Work could be completed on nights and weekends only, with a single tube providing continued service in both directions during work periods.
The plan has been presented to and reviewed by the MTA, and it has been confirmed that the report’s goals are achievable within a 15 to 20-month timeframe. The MTA still plans to implement additional subway service where needed, including on the G, M, and 7 Trains.
In 2012, the 1.5-mile L Train Tunnel was filled with corrosive salt water due to Superstorm Sandy. As a result, the 100-year-old tunnel sustained critical damage, including the Circuit Breaker House, system and power cables, and the cement benchwall that holds and protects the cables. Crucial repair work was planned to begin in the spring of 2019, including removing and replacing all 32,000 feet of benchwall, as well as installing 126,000 feet of power cable and 176,000 feet of communications cable inside the benchwall.
Prior to Thursday, this work required a complete shutdown of the L through the tunnel for 15 months.
In December 2018, Gov. Andrew Cuomo impaneled an expert review team to do a final analysis of the plan ahead of the L Project and its tunnel shutdown. The review team was charged with examining the current plan and recommending new designs, new systems, or technology that would improve the project and/or expedite the timetable, or confirm the current plan as the best way forward. Members of the panel toured the L Train Tunnel, as well as the Hudson River tunnel along with Amtrak leadership to further inform their analysis. They also consulted with MTA and New York City Transit, the project contractors, and conducted their own intensive analysis and performed hundreds of hours of pro bono work.
While the new plan eliminates the need for a complete shutdown of the tunnel, L Train Project rebuilding and improvements will continue as planned to address long–term capacity on the line, the MTA indicated. These include constructing new power substations; storm and flooding resiliency measures; and station improvements.
“[On Thursday], an alternative plan for the L Train renovation was presented which would be faster, better and probably less expensive,” the governor noted. “For the plan to proceed, the MTA Board would have to alter current contracts with the contractors presently engaged in the tunnel’s restoration. I urge the MTA Board to hold an emergency meeting to review the alternative plan and allow the public the opportunity to understand and comment on the plan, and for the MTA Board, in its discretion, to commence a revised plan if that is their conclusion.