L Train Between Manhattan and Brooklyn Will Shut Down for 18 Months in 2019

Transit workers pump seawater out of the Canarsie tunnels after Hurricane Sandy on November 5, 2012
Transit workers pump seawater out of the Canarsie tunnels after Hurricane Sandy on November 5, 2012
Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

Rather than continuously disrupt service for three years to repair the damage to the Canarsie tunnels wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, the MTA has decided to shut down L train service entirely between Manhattan and Brooklyn for 18 months.

According to an MTA release, the shutdown will occur "no sooner than 2019." There are two tunnels that carry more than 300,000 New Yorkers along the Canarsie line each workday, and the MTA had the option of closing one while leaving the other open.

"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," NYC Transit President Ronnie Hakim said in the release, adding that around 80 percent of the riders they surveyed would be equally inconvenienced by both options.

"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.… It gives us more control over the work site and allows us to offer contractor incentives to finish the work as fast as possible."

The Regional Plan Association endorsed the 18-month option [PDF] in April, and the Riders Alliance found that 77 percent of passengers they surveyed supported it as well.

In addition to repairing the tunnels, the MTA will also install new power substations to allow more trains to travel during rush hour, and add new staircases and elevators to the Bedford and First Avenue stops.

The MTA's release doesn't say much about how it will move passengers who normally take the L train into Manhattan, only that it is "now starting the process of fully developing alternative service plans."

In a statement to the Times, Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris said this wasn't enough.

"While we recognize the need for the M.T.A. to perform these important repairs and upgrades, we are deeply concerned that it would announce an 18-month shutdown of this critical service without a clear plan or a commitment of resources for mitigating the impact of this closure on hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers."

After news of the closure was reported in January, the MTA indicated that it would increase service on the G, in addition to exploring options for ferry service and shuttle buses over the Williamsburg Bridge.

To mitigate the gridlock in Manhattan, lawmakers are asking the DOT and the MTA to make 14h Street a bus-only zone, an idea that both agencies have yet to fully engage with.


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