71° Good Afternoon
71° Good Afternoon

L train plan welcome — if it pans out

The L train can remain partially open between

The L train can remain partially open between Manhattan and Brooklyn during Superstorm Sandy-related repairs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

For hundreds of thousands of subway riders, the new plan to repair the L train tunnel without shutting train service is welcome news.

Also welcome: The MTA’s willingness to think differently, to embrace new strategies and ideas, even if because of a last-minute push from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But plenty of questions and concerns remain — and they are best addressed before work begins.

The Canarsie tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and its power cables, signals and switches, were badly damaged during superstorm Sandy. The MTA had planned to close the tunnel for 15 months to remove and replace the bench wall — the walkway workers use to enter and exit the tunnel — and the cables within it. Under the new proposal from a team of academic engineering experts, workers would patch up or remove only parts of the bench wall, while hanging new power cables on the other side of the tunnel. The approach, which hasn’t been done before on existing tunnels, would close only one of the tunnel’s two tubes on nights and weekends.

Theoretically, anything that minimizes riders’ pain is worth applause. But so far, the plans are all theory. We haven’t heard yet from train engineers or contractors to know what’s doable. It’s unclear whether there’s new risk or liability — and whether that would come with added cost. We don’t know the logistics of leaving old cables to power the trains during construction, and then switching to new cables after the work is done. The MTA needs answers and expertise, and must ensure its contractors can do the work on time and on budget. This can’t become another transit boondoggle. Meanwhile, the MTA and NYC shouldn’t shelve mitigation plans, like bus and bike lanes and added trains.

And while Cuomo’s sudden interest in the L train is appreciated, it comes after years of rider frustration, and too late for those who’ve made financial, business and housing decisions based on the expected shutdown. His leadership at the MTA is welcome, even if he won’t admit he controls the authority. But in the future, the MTA has to generate new ideas on big projects from the start.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Top News stories