Subway Tunnel Slated to Be Closed for 18 Months in New York

I f you show up late to the 20th annual Brooklyn Reality Tour — the famous FlyerTalk tour will actually be in its 19th year in 2019 due to an inexplicably severe case of triskaidekaphobia three years ago — and that mean old Dan Hammer leaves you behind and went ahead with the tour anyway, chances are that one transportation option to catch up to his tour will not be available to you.

Subway Tunnel Slated to Be Closed for 18 Months in New York

This official statement — which was issued by the New York City Transit division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — revealed that massive reconstruction work needed to the Canarsie Tunnel will require a full closure of the tunnel for 18 months starting no sooner than 2019. Service in Manhattan will be suspended during the entire length of the closure of the Canarsie Tunnel; while service in Brooklyn is expected to remain relatively normal.

Several alternative options are being considered for passengers of the L line — including but not limited to increased and enhanced bus service; possible ferry service across the East River; ride share options; bicycle sharing options; and bolstering train service along lines such as the G, J and M.

The Canarsie Tunnel carries trains of the L line under the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan; and the trains pass under neighborhoods such as Williamsburg which have experienced gentrification and a resurgence in popularity in recent years — resulting in the L line to grow over the past decade into one of the busiest subway lines in New York, as it is used by greater than 225,000 commuters every weekday. Ridership on the L line has more than tripled since 1990, which has resulted in it becoming the tenth largest subway in North America; and use of the Bedford Avenue subway station alone has quintupled, according to this article from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “This growth has fueled unprecedented revitalization of housing and business development in several neighborhoods along the line.”

The damage to the Canarsie Tunnel has been described as “catastrophic”, superseded in magnitude only by the destruction to the subway system underneath the former World Trade Center as a result of the terrorist attacks which occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 — and a complete reconstruction of the tunnel is the only way to assure safety for subway passengers who use it.

Included in that article is this video pertaining to reconstruction of the Canarsie Tunnel, which first opened to the public 92 years ago in 1924.

The Canarsie Tunnel — named for the neighborhood in Brooklyn which serves as the eastern terminus for the L line — was substantially damaged with approximately seven million gallons of salt water caused from flooding by Hurricane Sandy back on Monday, October 29, 2012, which I covered extensively through these articles:

Summary

As a former passenger of the L line, I have been through the Canarsie Tunnel literally hundreds of times over the course of nine years.

The L line is the only major subway line in New York which does not share a track with any other subway line; and it has always been a local line with no express train service — except in unusual situations — so alternative options are not as easy as they would be for most of the other subway lines. The L line used to be the proverbial stepchild of the subway system before its significant increase in popularity and its receiving the latest in technology pertaining to the trains which run on it.

That the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is being proactive about the future of the Canarsie Tunnel is good for riders of the L line; and hopefully it will lead to further improved service in the future…

…but if you plan on traveling to or within New York in 2019 through 2021 and want to use the L line as a passenger — such as embarking on the aforementioned Brooklyn Reality Tour by Dan Hammer, who is also known as FlyerTalk member dhammer53 and really is not all that mean and old after all — ensure that you keep yourself updated with the latest information pertaining to the reconstruction of the Canarsie Tunnel.

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

12 thoughts on “Subway Tunnel Slated to Be Closed for 18 Months in New York”

  1. Charles says:

    This native New Yorker thinks the decision taken was wrong.
    If the damage was so great how have they been able to function for the past few years?
    There was an alternative plan that would close traffic part time. What many do not realize is that under the option taken (closing totally) they also must cease and subway traffic under 14th street because the trains would be trapped on 14th street and could not be serviced if necesary. This alone should have forced othe roptions.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is true, Charles, as the tracks to the service yards are located in Brooklyn.

      They are thinking of enhanced bus service for 14 Street; but that probably will do little good during rush hours.

      I suppose that people prefer no service for 18 months versus partial service for three years — and according to the video, the partial service is considered fragile; so if something happens during that partial service, the subway line would be forced to be closed for an indeterminate amount of time anyway.

      1. Charles says:

        Actually Brian you have to understand that once the city opts for the 36 month program there is the possibility to have full L train service under Manhattan and that in and of itself is a big factor. I find it astounding that they cannot find a way to do the 18-month program but maintain one set of tracks through the tunnel so that they could bring in service trains when necessary to serve Manhattan

        1. Brian Cohen says:

          I do not know enough about the topic to offer an informed opinion, Charles; but I believe that part of it is the danger of silica dust, which is so toxic that if they did work over the weekends, they could not reopen the L line until at least Tuesday just to clear it out, according to the video.

          There are probably other factors about which I do not know…

          1. Charles says:

            Sorry for the late comment. There was strong consideration of a partial, 36 month closure. If They considered this I assume Silica dust was either not a concern or could have been controlled.
            I understand that a total shutdown is easier but the massive ramifications need to be considered. One train carries about as many passengers as 25 packed busses.
            The fact that they need to shut down service under 14th street is massive. It is not necessitated by the work itself but because there would be no way to service the trains left in Manhattan during a full shutdown BUT COULD BE SERVICED during a partial shutdown.

    2. Mak says:

      In MTA speak, “we have to do it now” means the crony contractors and Unions want another multi-billion project now that the WTC projects have wound down. That it will harm mere citizens, and destroy Williamsburg and Bushwick, are not considerations within their brief.

  2. Mak says:

    The closure of the L is bordering on criminal, and at minimum is criminally incompetent. The MTA has never finished a project remotely on time, or remotely on budget, and my prediction is that this will take twice as long, and cost several times as much as predicted — those who doubt that should look at its record with the 2nd Ave. Subway, the new 7 Station (which leaks like a sieve and already looks terrible, and all of the WTC related projects. This plan will assure that the most vibrant area of all of New York City is crushed from lack of transportation options, and billions upon billions of dollars of real estate value (and tax revenues) will be lost. What incentive does the MTA have to prevent this from happening? None.

    What the MTA should do is to privatize this line to a private concession, and let them figure it out. A private profit making entity can recruit competent and creative people, and will have the incentive to maximize uptime and minimize downtime.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      While intriguing, I am not sure that privatization is the answer, Mak.

      My solution for years — I know, wishful thinking; and I am daydreaming — was that the L line should have a third track added along its entire length. This way, the work which needs to be done to the Canarsie Tunnel can be performed without its complete closure; while more trains could run on that line — with one track being used for express service between Eighth Avenue and Rockaway Parkway.

      Correct me if I am wrong; but the subway system is now operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which, if I am not mistaken, is run by the State of New York — instead of what was known as the New York City Transit Authority and run by the City of New York; and the sad part is that they are arguably actually doing a better job than in the past…

      1. Mak says:

        Brian, like the MTA, neither of us have much incentive to spend a tremendous amount of time to fully understand the world of possibilities and alternatives available in dealing with the L line. What I do know is that a private entity would have such an incentive, and I have little doubt that they could and would find a way that keeps the L line running to some extent. I also don’t find your suggestion totally absurd, and I agree with you that one alternative that should be fully explored is the building of some sort of relief line — either in parallel or on a new route — that could deal with some of this traffic before the L line is closed for these repairs (if actually necessary). The MTA, being a public entity, with no profit motive, has absolutely no incentive to keep the line running, and its only incentives are to maximize political contributions to the politicians that appointed them to their cushy positions, through doling out patronage and contracts. I’m not suggesting that privatization will happen in New York, but transit systems around the world (i.e., London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and even Rio de Janeiro) have used privatization to build out their systems and to keep them well maintained.

      2. Mak says:

        Brian, like the MTA, neither of us have much incentive to spend a tremendous amount of time to fully understand the world of possibilities and alternatives available in dealing with the L line. What I do know is that a private entity would have such an incentive, and I have little doubt that they could and would find a way that keeps the L line running to some extent. I also don’t find your suggestion totally absurd, and I agree with you that one alternative that should be fully explored is the building of some sort of relief line — either in parallel or on a new route — that could deal with some of this traffic before the L line is closed for these repairs (if actually necessary). The MTA, being a public entity, with no profit motive, has absolutely no incentive to keep the line running, and its only incentives are to maximize political contributions to the politicians that appointed them to their cushy positions, through doling out patronage and contracts. I’m not suggesting that privatization will happen in New York, but transit systems around the world (i.e., London, Hong Kong, Singapore, and even Rio de Janeiro) have used privatization to build out their systems and to keep them well maintained.

      3. Charles says:

        Let’s get real here. Tunnels and underground lines were built to certain widths and they did not leave space for an additional track. While we all are interested in a resolution that will have the least negative impact it is clear that certain possibilities are just impossible.

        1. Mak says:

          Tunnels can be widened and new tunnels can be built. There are no less than many tens of Billions of dollars at stake if the most vibrant and quickly growing part of New York City is suddenly as inaccessible to Manhattan for three years. I don’t think that digging a new tunnel — its a couple of 1000 feet across the East River, and modern digging equipment could make pretty short work of that — which would cost a mere fraction of that, and which could be used as a relief line during the repairs to the L, and then could add capacity to an overcrowded system is a terrible idea. A private company built a brand new 10 mile subway line with 7 stations in Rio de Janeiro with tunnels through mountains, and bridges over rivers, and much of which is under the water table, in not much more time than they want to repair the L. Its just absurd.

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