Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this weekend that work on the L train rehabilitation project is proceeding ahead of schedule, with the slowdown now set to end roughly three months earlier than originally announced.
The governor delivered the news from the depths of the Canarsie Tunnel on Sunday, as he took credit for pushing the MTA to drop its initial plan to fully reconstruct the Hurricane Sandy-damaged tunnel, completely shutting down L service between Manhattan and Brooklyn in the process.
"Why would you ever replace what they did a hundred years ago today?" the governor wondered. "Just think how absurd a concept that is. I'm going to build a new car, it is going to be called the Model T. No. So, this is a better tunnel than ever before."
He added that the project should be a case study for the MTA in how to properly implement its newly approved $51 billion capital plan.
Instead of demolishing and fully rebuilding the bench wall inside the tunnel, the governor's last-minute intervention called for reinforcing the crumbling sections with a fiber polymer, then racking the communication cables once enclosed inside the wall along the sides of the tunnel. The MTA has so far installed roughly 7,000 feet of fiber optic cables in the Manhattan-bound tube, and plans to begin work inside the second tube on Monday.
The entire project was expected to last between 15-18 months, but the MTA now expects to done in April, exactly a year after construction first began. The current alternative service plan, as well as the 20 minute L train headways on nights and weekends, will remain in place throughout the second phase of construction. There is also one weekend outage planned once the project is completed.
While Cuomo framed the repair job as an unambiguous success—"better, faster cheaper" than the old plan—critics have raised concerns that the new project will only serve as a temporary solution. During an MTA board meeting earlier this year, WSP engineer Mike Abrahams admitted that it "certainly would have been advantageous for long-term service life" to proceed with the first version of the project (WSP is a consulting firm that helped oversee both plans).
The project's price tag also remain uncertain, though the MTA has said that the total cost won't be more than the originally budgeted $477 million.
With the first phase of construction now completed, the governor's victory lap came with a warning for those who'd ever doubted his infrastructure ambitions.
"This project was impossible. I have news for you: the Koscuiuszko Bridge was impossible, the Mario Cuomo Bridge was impossible, LaGuardia Airport, building a new airport while you're operating the old airport, that's impossible, everybody knows that," Cuomo said. "The third track on the Long Island Railroad, that's impossible. No, nothing's impossible in New York. That's why New York is New York."