2 subway stations in Washington Heights closing to replace ‘critical’ elevators

The 181st Street No. 1 train subway station will close from March 2021 until February 2022 so its elevator can be replaced.
The 181st Street No. 1 train subway station will close from March 2021 until February 2022 so its elevator can be replaced. Photo Credit: Jay Maidment

The MTA will be replacing the elevators at five deeply built subway stations in Washington Heights.

The state transportation authority announced Tuesday that two of the five stations will have to close for 11 to 12 months to facilitate the complete replacement of the elevators and their components. Both the 168th Street and 181st Street stations of the 1 line will close, while these other three station will remain open during the elevator upgrades:

  • 181st Street (A line)
  • 191st Street (1 line)
  • 190th Street (A line)

The authority had previously incorrectly announced that all five stations would have to close for the elevator upgrades.

“Replacing these elevators is long overdue and critical for reliable access to these unique ‘deep stations,’ and we’ve put together a schedule that takes care not to cause unnecessary inconvenience for customers,” said MTA’s New York City Transit President Andy Byford in a statement. “We thank our customers for their patience during this extraordinary work and hope they take advantage of the enhanced bus service and additional free transfers we’ve arranged for the duration of the projects.”

The MTA will stagger the construction over the next three years to minimize disruption to commuters. The 168th Street station of the 1 line, which features platforms exclusively accessed via elevator, will close first, on Jan. 5, 2019, and remain closed until January 2020, according to the authority. The 1 line’s 181st Street station is scheduled to close in March 2021 and reopen in February 2022.

Three of the stations selected are more than a century old, with elevator components that are just as aged, according to the MTA. Several elevators at the targeted stations break down more often than the citywide average. Subway elevators remained in service 94.1 percent of the time during the third quarter of 2018, according to MTA data. Two elevators at the 181 Street station were opened for about 82 percent of the time during that period. That equates to those elevators remaining out of service for roughly nine weeks of one year.

Elected officials have previously called for the MTA to improve elevator service at 168th Street. Last winter, trains running on the 1 line had to bypass the station on two occasions within a week after all four elevators to the platform lost power, stranding riders underground.

Complete station closures were necessary for the work because the age of the equipment and depth of the stations complicate the reconstruction — relying on overnight closures wasn’t possible, the authority said in a news release announcing the plans.

M5 bus service will be “enhanced” during the construction efforts and three-legged transfers will be provided “on a limited basis” to ensure that riders don’t end up paying two fares during the work, according to the MTA.