March 28, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
Just weeks before construction on the L train’s Canarsie tunnel is set to take place, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has made clear that it will no longer be having an independent third party review the feasibility of the updated construction plans put together by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s team of engineers.
During yesterday’s MTA board meeting, a $1.2 million consulting contract with JMT Consulting Group was ratified. The contract, however, did not included a review of the plan itself, rather stating that the company will monitor safety and environmental factors during the construction process.
This comes as a change from what MTA Acting Chairman Freddy Ferrer had previously promised during the MTA’s contentious emergency board meeting back in January. At the meeting, Ferrer stated that “a third party team will be engaged to report to the board and me, all of us, on what the best path forward is.”
When pressed even further on the topic by board member Andrew Saul, who said that an independent review of the project plan needed to be conducted before the MTA can move forward, Ferrer directly replied with “That’s the goal, Mr. Saul.”
At yesterday’s meeting, however, Ferrer has said that his statements were taken out of context, and that he never intended to have the consultant review the plan itself.
“This consultant was never to come back to the Board in comparison between Plan A and Plan B,” Ferrer said at the board meeting. “I’ve said that before. We’ve all said that before.”
The new L train plan, proposed by Cuomo’s team of engineers, will see only a partial shutdown of the tunnel, as opposed to the previously planned 15-month full shutdown. Overnight and on weekends, construction workers will operate in one of the tunnel’s two passageways, while trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan continue to run with 20-minute headways in the other.
Ongoing preparation work on the L line, however, has already caused concerns for riders who have found unreasonable amounts of dust in the Bedford Avenue station following full weekend shutdowns. Despite assurances from the MTA that the dusty air is safe to breath, riders have remained skeptical, comparing the situation to being told the air near ground zero was safe.
Additional concerns about toxic silica dust being kicked up during the tunnel construction have also been raised by both MTA board members and riders alike.
MTA Capital Construction has submitted the dust mitigation plan for reevaluation by the State Department of Health, The State Department of Environmental Protection, and an independent expert in public health hired by the MTA to advise on how to best understand the risks of the ongoing construction.
While no official date for the updated plan has been given, construction is expected to start near the end of April or early May and will last no more than 20 months.