Hel-L Train Update: The MTA Wants to Shut the L Down Completely for 18 Months

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Last night, at the Marcy Avenue Armory, the MTA finally gave the first public presentation of two possible L Train shutdown options, made necessary by bad saltwater damage to each of the Canarsie Tunnels, which carry all L traffic between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

As reported by Gothamist, while the meeting was slated to begin at 6pm, the agency’s presentation didn’t get underway until 7pm, and lasted about an hour, before limited questions were allowed from the at-first-packed, and then rapidly dwindling audience. While the MTA is considering only two repair timelines—a complete L shutdown between Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, which would last 18 months; or a partial shutdown, in which one of two tunnels would carry limited L train service, and in which repairs would last about three years—it became clear last night that the MTA itself is pushing for the former: a shorter, uninterrupted shutdown of approximately a year and a half.

The preference was hinted at ahead of time by MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast, in attendance last night, who this week told the New York Times the public would likely prefer the shorter option. “I think there is an ‘Aha’ moment they have in their minds, like, ‘Geez if it’s only one in five people you can carry,'”—which refers to the number of total riders, out of the current 225,000, who would be able to use the limited service in the second option, given packed shuttle buses—”maybe it would be better to have two tracks.”

And while many in attendance last night were not opposed to this shorter, complete shutdown, it was clear that the MTA was pushing this, rather than showing up to weigh both options equally—despite the fact that Prendergast told the Times “the agency was committed to hearing from the community before making a decision.” Meanwhile audience members were not pleased with the limited amount of feedback they were able to give to the agency, and the number of questions that could be asked before the majority of the crowd had left.

Since we first learned of the MTA’s plans to shutdown the L Train in January, the agency has been tight lipped about their plans to repair it—and, of course, plans are still not finalized. The agency will make that decision within a few months, and after a second public meeting on May 12. But something else the MTA has been secretive about is the full extend of the tunnels’ damage. Last night, they revealed it.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, also in attendance, said, “Some of our constituents may or may not yet be convinced, like we were, of the formidable damage that was done to these tubes. But let me just say that having been convinced, I am now more than ever convinced… that we have to have a different kind of meeting next time, where not only I get to speak and the other elected officials get to speak, but the community gets to speak.”

At the same time, the MTA took pains to say—yes, the tunnel is very damaged, but don’t worry, it will not be collapsing any time soon.

Gothamist summarized that, no matter the repair schedule that is selected, there are several alternative transportation modes that will be added: more service on the G, J, and M lines, including more cars added to the notoriously short G train. There would also be more frequent service on the B39 Bus line, running across the Williamsburg Bridge, and, likely, a new express bus service that runs the width of Manhattan on 14th Street, and extends to 23rd Street. Finally, the MTA said, at 23rd Street, they would hope to construct a ferry station to transport riders across the river to Williamsburg. (No mention of the enormous new gondola was made.)

Now that the MTA has spoken—and made clear their preference for the 18 month plan—you can show up on May 12 to the Salvation Army Theater at 5:30 pm, near Union Square (12- West 14th Street in Manhattan) to share which of these options you prefer.

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