IF YOU’VE SPENT ANY TIME AT ALL in New York City, you’ve probably ridden the L train. The train, which travels from the western side of Lower Manhattan all the way through Brooklyn, is a major commuter hub for anyone trying to get between the two boroughs. During Hurricane Sandy a few years back, one of the tunnels underneath the East River, the Canarsie Tube, flooded with saltwater, and was pretty badly damaged.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York (MTA) has been in the process of slowly repairing all of the damage from Hurricane Sandy. Another tunnel, the Montague tube of the R train, had also been damaged due to flooding during the superstorm, and had to be shut down for 13 months during repairs. Now, the MTA is considering shutting down the L train tunnel that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn for up to three years in order to completely repair the damage from the storm.
While the repairs won’t cost New Yorkers anything, as they are covered by federal funds, the potential disruption to city commuters is huge. On any given weekday, 300,000 people ride the L train in New York, making it one of the most trafficked routes in the city. The Canarsie Tube has two separate tunnels — one Manhattan-bound and one Brooklyn-bound — and the MTA expects the repairs to take three years. So they can either shut down one tunnel at a time and make the entire process a little less painful and a little bit slower, or they can shut down the entire tube at once, making the process extremely painful but a bit faster.
“Unfortunately we all knew this day would eventually come on the Canarsie line, because this is, once again, the legacy of Sandy,” said the Director of Transportation of the Regional Plan Association, Richard Barone. “It really depends on how quickly it takes the MTA to get the job done versus the severity of the shutdown. So if they can get it done in a year, but they have to shut both tunnels down, it’s one thing. If it takes them three or four years to do it, and they have to alternate shutting down the tunnels, you have to question, which is better? Is it better to get it done faster but with massive disruption? Is it even possible to do that? Is there another alternative that these folks can take to get to Manhattan for work?”
The decision as to whether to shut down the tube has yet to be made, but New York Governor Cuomo just announced last week that the MTA would be shutting down 30 stations in order to facilitate repairs. It’s a massive project, and is likely going to be a pain in the ass for New Yorkers no matter what.