There will be no L train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan for a year-and-a-half, starting in January of 2019. The decision comes after months of hand-wringing and public hearings, during which the MTA presented two painful options for necessary repair work to the Sandy-damaged L train tunnel under the East River: The chosen plan, which will finish the job faster but with a bigger disruption, and a three year option, which would have allowed for limited L train service to continue.
The 18 month closure will completely discontinue L train service within Manhattan. The L will continue to run along its current route within Brooklyn throughout the project, but terminate at Bedford Avenue. An estimated 225,000 commuters take the L between Brooklyn and Manhattan daily. 77% of L train riders preferred the 18 month closure option over the three year plan, according to a survey conducted in May by the straphangers' advocacy group Riders Alliance, in part because partial service over the course of three years would still result in extremely overcrowded trains.
“We think it is better to have a shorter duration of pain than a longer more unstable process - and risk unplanned closures - by leaving one track open during construction,” Veronique Hakim, president of New York City Transit, said in a statement. "Approximately 80 percent of riders will have the same disruptions with either option. Throughout our extensive outreach process and review, it became clear that the 18-month closure was the best construction option and offered the least amount of pain to customers for the shortest period of time."
The project, which will be largely funded by Sandy relief funds from the federal government, will also include improvements to the closed L train stations in Manhattan. Here are more details from the announcement:
The Canarsie Tunnel was one of nine underwater tunnels that flooded during Superstorm Sandy, all of which required major rehabilitation and repair. Some of that work was accomplished during night and weekend closures, while the R line’s Montague Tunnel under the East River was closed for 13 months and the G line tunnel under Newtown Creek was closed for two months, both for complete renovations.
The Canarsie Tunnel suffered extensive damage to tracks, signals, switches, power cables, signal cables, communication cables, lighting, cable ducts and bench walls throughout a seven-mile long flooded section of both tubes. Bench walls throughout those sections must be replaced to protect the structural integrity of the two tubes that carry trains through the tunnel.
During this rehabilitation process, the MTA will also make significant improvements to stations and tunnel segments closest to the under-river section. New stairs and elevators will be installed at the Bedford Av station in Brooklyn and the 1 Av station in Manhattan, and three new electric substations will be installed, providing more power to operate additional trains during rush hours.
The MTA is expected to offer some alternatives to commuters during the shutdown; these may include shuttle bus service over the Williamsburg Bridge and expanded ferry service. And some lawmakers are urging the city to make 14th Street car-free bus-only zone for the duration of the project.