NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than two years after news broke that one of New York City’s busiest subway lines would stop running between Manhattan and Brooklyn to allow for repairs, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that the “L” train would keep rolling.
The expected closure of the L train tunnel under the East River for at least 15 months had dismayed residents of Brooklyn communities. Many were braced to squeeze onto other, already overcrowded lines or promised new bus services. Some moved out of their neighborhoods.
But Cuomo told a news conference on Thursday that engineering experts from Cornell and Columbia universities had looked at the plans drawn up by the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority and found them needlessly disruptive.
“The simple fact is you have roughly 250,000 people who would need another way to get to work,” Cuomo said.
“No ‘L-pocalypse!” added Fernando Ferrer, the MTA’s acting chairman.
Chloe Philips, 23, relies on the L train to travel from her home in Bushwick to her sales job at a technology company in Manhattan every day. Her lease is up in May and she was considering moving before Thursday’s news.
“Everyone’s really relieved,” she said, describing how the many Brooklyn residents who work at her company had exulted on their internal online messaging chatrooms. “I was thinking how much money I was going to have to spend on Ubers.”
Under the new plan, work will take place only on nights and weekends, with trains running on limited service through one of the two tubes inside the tunnel, causing longer wait times.
Asked whether he would promise that work would not exceed 20 months, Cuomo said: “I can’t promise.”
The repairs are needed to fix damage from Storm Sandy in 2012, one of the most devastating storms ever to hit the U.S. East Coast, which pushed salt water inside old cracks and leaks in the century-old tunnel structure and corroded electrical switches and power lines.
Under the new plan the MTA will not remove and replace all 32,000 feet of benchwall, a gangway-like walkway that allows workers, or evacuating passengers, to walk along the edge of the tunnel.
Instead, weakened parts of the benchwall will be patched up with strengthened, industrial-use plastic, and the cables that currently run inside the benchwall will be suspended from racks higher up the tunnel wall.
“So long as this new strategy proves to be real, the mayor thinks this is great news for L-train riders,” a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “But like everyone else, the mayor thinks the MTA has some real explaining to do about how it has handled this for the last few years. This is certainly no way to run a railroad.”
The Riders Alliance, an advocacy group for the city’s transit users, called on the governor to release more details.
“The governor’s plan may or may not work,” John Raskin, the alliance’s director, said in a statement, “but you’ll pardon transit riders for being skeptical that a last-minute Hail Mary idea cooked up over Christmas is better than what the MTA came up with over three years of extensive public input.”
Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Susan Thomas, Lisa Shumakerand Leslie Adler