Jan. 3, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
The L-pocalypse will be no more.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that a full shutdown of the L train Canarsie Tunnel as planned in April will no longer be necessary.
The MTA will now forge ahead with a new plan, spearheaded by Cuomo, recommending the use of more innovative technology and designs never before seen in the United States.
Cuomo’s proposal, crafted just four months before the tunnel connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan was scheduled to close for 15 months on April 27, will instead require an unspecified amount of weekend and nighttime shutdowns of one of the two tunnels, allowing the L train to run while repairs are made.
Work is still expected to begin near the end of April, and will be done within the existing budget if not below, Cuomo said at a press conference earlier.
The alternative plan will also remain on a similar timeline to the original, expected to take between 15 and 20 months to complete.
The announcement comes about three weeks after Cuomo toured the tunnel with a team of engineers from Columbia and Cornell as part of a personal effort to ensure that every option to reduce commuter disruption has been exhausted.
At the time, Cuomo said his engineers would review the MTA’s plan, which was the result of three years of work, and would make recommendations where they saw fit.
Cuomo’s team reviewed the technology used in transit tunnel systems in London, Hong Kong, Riyadh and Singapore to see what could be applied to the Canarsie Tunnel.
The main issue they identified in the MTA’S initial shutdown plan was a provision to demolish and rebuild parts of the tunnel’s corroded bench wall—a cement ledge that runs along the base of the tunnel where the power cables are embedded.
The bench wall’s reparations are what necessitated the full shutdown, and would have require extensive labor-intensive work to fix.
Cuomo’s engineers have now suggested abandoning the bench wall cable system all together. Instead, a new electrical cable system will be racked on the tunnel walls and wrapped in fiberglass-reinforced polymer.
“Our recommendations are really a result of looking at a highly integrated system, bringing together and emerging and new technologies,” said Mary Boyce, Dean of Engineering at Columbia University.
The racked system will allow for easier access to the cable system, making repairs and upgrades easier and less time consuming.
The new plan also includes a system of fiber optic sensors that will be installed into the existing bench wall that will be able to detect shifts or cracks within the tunnel.
Cuomo appeared excited at the prospect of leading the country in transportation technology, but made sure to emphasize that the suggested improvements are tried and true in other parts of the world.
“It’s the first of its kind in the United States of America,” Cuomo said. “It could be a national model because it is a totally different way to reconstruct a tunnel. It’s faster, it’s cheaper, it’s better. And New York should be the first.”
Measures have also been recommended to protect the tunnel from future flooding. Pump capacity will be increased, and a permanent generator to power the pumps has been suggested.
Plans to increase service on alternative subway lines such as the G, M and 7 trains will still go ahead to compensate for reduced service during the partial weekend and nighttime closures on the line.