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L'Pocalypse Nah: Cuomo Says Full L Train Shutdown Unnecessary

At 12:45 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo is holding a press conference at his Midtown office. The press conference comes two weeks after the governor ventured down into the Canarsie tunnel with a group of hand-picked experts to see for himself if the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn needed to be completely shut down for 15 months. The group was expected to reach their conclusions in a matter of a few weeks.

"One conclusion that could be reached is, everything being done is right and there are no suggestions," Cuomo said. "Second option is, we have some minor suggestions to make that could save some time. Third suggestion is, we have improvements that we can make to the system. And the fourth suggestion is, we have a totally different theory of how this can be done. New materials, new engineering techniques, et cetera."

MTA sources told Gothamist that they have heard rumors that the governor was planning on altering the L train shutdown. "We usually have provisions that allow us to get out of contracts at any given time, but there's been a fair amount of work done already," one source said. "If there's a new plan only the very upper management knows what that is."

Another source in contact with city decision makers said the governor may switch from the 1.5 year total shutdown timeline to one that would last 3+ years by partially shutting down one track.

A City DOT spokesperson declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Governor's Office did not respond to a request for comment. We'll be covering the press conference so check back for updates this afternoon. Who knows, maybe this is all just baloney!

[UPDATE // 12:47 p.m.] A few minutes before the presser, the Times published a short story on the announcement. "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo plans to announce Thursday that the L train subway tunnel will not fully shut down in April as planned," the paper reports, "according to three people familiar with the governor’s plan."

[UPDATE // 1:00 p.m.] Governor Cuomo, joined by his experts, tells reporters that thanks to "a new design," the L train shutdown does not need to stop service between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 15 months.

"Long story short, with this design it would not be necessary to close the L train tunnel at all, which would be a phenomenal benefit to the people of New York City," Cuomo said. "There would need to be some night and weekend closures of only one tube, so service would still work." You can tune into the presser live here.

[UPDATE // 1:30 p.m.] Mary Boyce, the dean of Columbia's engineering school, and Lance Collins, the dean of Cornell's engineering school, have spent the better part of 30 minutes talking about the technical aspects of their recommendations (see slides above), which include using LIDAR and "smart technology" that allow for the constant monitoring of tunnel conditions, allowing workers to identify areas of deterioration before they become problem sites.

"No closure of the service is necessary with this new design," Boyce says. "[The work] can be completed with weekend and night time closures and doing it one tube at a time. This leaves one train always available to do the back and forth."

[UPDATE // 1:44 p.m.] The MTA's acting chair, Fernando Ferrer, tells reporters that on Cuomo's new timeline, repairs are supposed to last 15 to 20 months. Trains will run with "15-20 minute headways on nights and weekends," which Ferrer says is the same as regular night service.

"No L-pocalypse," Ferrer said.

"What this group did is looked at the various needs, scoured the world, and came up with the best ideas across the world and then knit together a program," Cuomo said. "No one has used fiber optic system cables on bench walls to detect motion. I don’t even know what that means. No one has ever used fiber glass wrapping on bench walls so you don’t have to replace them. This has never been done before."

[UPDATE // 2:01 p.m.] Asked if Judlau, the contractor that won the $477 million contract to fix the tunnel, will still be working on the project, Ferrer said, "We'll be renegotiating the scope of work and the project itself." Does he know how much it will cost?

"I don't know the answer to that question," Ferrer replied. "I don't know if anyone does...On this new project we believe it can be done within the envelope."

Cuomo refused to promise that it would take a maximum of 20 months, calling it a "silly question."

"Less time, less work, equals less money, but I am a monster to negotiate with," Cuomo said.

[UPDATE // 2:15 p.m.] After one hour and 20 minutes, the press conference ends. There is no mention of all of the DOT and MTA's mitigation efforts, including restricting traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge, and turning 14th Street into a busway.

"No, I am not in charge of the MTA," Cuomo told the reporters. "Yes, I did ask this group, I convened this group, I got them access, I facilitated their research, they came up with their conclusion, they presented it to the MTA, and the MTA said it’s a better way to do it."

Check back later today for a more thorough report.

Additional reporting by Claire Lampen.

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