Why the L train shutdown was cancelled and what to expect instead

By Angely Mercado · Jan 11, 2019 · ·

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For months, North Brooklyn residents were planning for the impending “L-pocalypse”, when the L train would cease to cross into Manhattan for 15 months while the Canarsie Tunnel was repaired of damages from 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. Leading up to the shutdown, many of the over 200,000 North Brooklyn commuters voiced concerns at meetings, moved away, or concocted transportation alternatives (like this luxury van service) for riding into Manhattan.

The shutdown was going to entail closures of all Manhattan L stops, new shuttle buses running along 14th Street, added pedestrian space and bike infrastructure, and even a ferry from Williamsburg to Manhattan. Having no direct train into Manhattan also caused concern about how other train lines would be able to handle added passengers. Repairs were made to the J, M and Z trains to ensure that they would be able to manage.

But on Thursday, January 3rd, Governor Cuomo announced that new technology would be used to fix the tunnel and that a full shutdown wouldn’t be necessary.

According to a report in ABC 7 Eyewitness News, repairs are no longer going to be executed by pulling out a bench wall in the Canarsie Tunnel to fix damaged wires, a method which would have required a tunnel closure. The MTA will now be using a racking system, meaning workers will hang damaged cables on either side of the tunnel’s walls and wrap them in a protective fiberglass material. There will also be sensors that will allow the MTA to know if the rack moves. This means that it’s safe for the line to continue operating. The repairs are expected to take 15 to 20 months with only partial closures during late night hours and some weekends.

“It uses many new innovations that are frankly new to the rail industry in this country,” said Cuomo in an address. “With this design, it would not be necessary to close the L train tunnel at all, which would be a phenomenal benefit to the people of New York City.”

There has been some uncertainty and even disbelief online over the cancelled shutdown. Some elected local officials want to ensure the pedestrian and bike infrastructure is implemented for commuters who will still deal with weekend shutdowns and delays.

Others are frustrated that it’s unclear when exactly repairs will be taking place and how this will disrupt weekend service.

Some North Brooklyn renters were able to save money due to the shutdown — a recent StreetEasy
stated that renters who signed new leases in 2018 saved a minimum of $6.4 million dollars thanks to the L-pocalypse. StreetEasy economist Grant Long wrote that rents in the area are down 1.5 percent since April 2016, when the shutdown was initially announced, a decrease that likely wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Long predicted that rents will now rise again due to the shutdown’s cancellation.

The MTA faces a new set of challenges when it comes to making sure the tunnel is repaired in a timely manner, even without the full shutdown. A report in AM New York outlined that the MTA now has to “renegotiate its roughly $500 million contract with Judlau and TC Electric to rehabilitate the tunnel.” Thankfully, though, April 27th no longer looms over North Brooklynites and commuting can continue as usual.

What are your thoughts about the cancelled L train shutdown? Let us know by tweeting us @nooklyn, reaching out on Facebook, or finding us on Instagram @nooklyn.stories!

Cover photo courtesy Creative Commons