Lo-L Train: L Train Tunnel Repairs Could Last Seven Years

By 2108, these number will be a lot higher.
By 2108, these number will be a lot higher.

In January, we learned damages from Hurricane Sandy to the Canarsie Tunnel—which handles all L traffic between Brooklyn and Manhattan—could result in a complete tunnel shutdown for repairs. That option, which would necessitate thousands of daily shuttle buses and alternate subway routes, was estimated to last around a year. A partial shutdown (where east- and west-bound tunnels would, alternately, handle all traffic) we were told, at the time, could last as long as three years.

But last night at a full board Meeting for Community Board 1—whose constituency includes Williamsburg and Greenpoint—City Councilman Stephen Levin dropped a thoroughly- depressing L Train news bomb: if the MTA shuts down both tunnels to expedite work, that could last as long as two years. And a partial shutdown? Gothamist reports that if work is limited to nights and weekends, service disruption could last as long as seven years.

Take a moment to compose yourself.

Levin’s intelligence came from the first meeting about Canarsie Tunnel repairs held between MTA staff and elected officials on February 5. The conversation gathered Levin, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, Senator Martin Malavé Dilan, Senator Daniel Squadron, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Borough President Eric Adams; high level officials from the MTA included MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast and New York City Transit President Veronique Hakim.

Assemblyman Lentol told the Daily News that, at the meeting, the MTA also revealed tunnel repairs were likely not to begin until 2018. That would give the agency time to talk to the community and businesses effected by the closures to come up with a plan that would best accommodate L train riders and business sales. Lentol also told the Daily News that a complete tunnel shutdown—both east and west bound routes—could last as long as 18 months. The less invasive shutdown, nights and weekends, five years “at minimum” he said.

But at Community Board 1’s full board meeting last night, Gothamist reported Councilman Levin gave a slightly-longer timeline: “It’s going to be significantly disruptive, whether you’re talking about a full shutdown, which is kind of mind boggling to me to think about…that would be probably two years. If you’re looking at just nights and weekends, that’s more, like, five, six, seven years, so we’re talking significant, significant work,” said Levin.

As for the 2018 start-date? Better sooner than later, Levin said. Per Gothamist:

“We have federal funds right now, about $700 million of federal funds, for Sandy recovery that can be dedicated to this, so that’s the lion’s share of what it would cost to do a significant amount of work there, and that’s not money you can always count on being there, to be honest with you. We don’t know what’s going to happen with a new administration on the federal level, so…probably the prudent thing to do is to start looking ahead as soon as possible on how to do this.”

An L Train Coalition—composed of affected business owners and L train riders—asked for something everyone loves, hard data, in order to understand more clearly what any version of any closure would mean. “We need to see metrics. This is a world that’s driven by data and science and we look forward to hearing why the problems might require or best be solved with a total shutdown,” said one of the coalition’s organizers, Felice Kirby, at last night’s meeting.

The Coalition will next meet at the end of the month to make further plans to fight against a full tunnel shutdown. To be a part of that effort—a worthy one—show up at 211 Ainslie Street on Wednesday, February 24, at 6:30pm.


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