MTA NYCT to close Canarsie Tunnel for 18 months

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor
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MTA officials speak to the public and media at the Manhattan community meeting to discuss future L subway Canarsie Tunnel reconstruction work. May 12, 2016
Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit (NYCT) is opting for a full 18-month shutdown of the Canarsie Tunnel, versus a three-year partial shutdown, to rebuild the tunnel, which flooded during Superstorm Sandy.

Closing the Canarsie Tunnel, which carries the L train under the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, would begin no sooner than 2019. MTA said the decision to close the tunnel was made based on a detailed operational review and only after significant community engagement, in order to consider all adverse impacts. Serious consideration was also given to consequences of unplanned outages that would occur if one track was closed for three years.

“While the MTA always looks to avoid service disruptions, there is no question that repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel are critical and cannot be avoided or delayed. Throughout this process we have committed to engaging the community and listening to all concerns so that we can address them as we prepare for this necessary work,” MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas F. Prendergast said. “We are committed to working with the community just as closely as we develop ways to add service to help minimize the impacts of the closure.”

Since May, the MTA has held four large-scale, interactive community meetings in communities affected by the upcoming closure. Officials also visited all 11 Community Boards along the L Line, which were overwhelmingly in favor of the full, shorter-duration closure. Of the comments MTA received directly through e-mail, social media and at meetings 77 percent were in favor of the full, shorter closure.

“We think it is better to have a shorter duration of pain than a longer more unstable process – and risk unplanned closures – by leaving one track open during construction,” NYCT President Veronique ‘Ronnie’ Hakim said.

The Canarsie Tunnel was one of nine underwater tunnels that flooded during Superstorm Sandy, all of which required major rehabilitation and repair. Some of that work was accomplished during night and weekend closures, while the R line’s Montague Tunnel under the East River was closed for 13 months and the G line tunnel under Newtown Creek was closed for two months, both for complete renovations.

The Canarsie Tunnel suffered extensive damage to tracks, signals, switches, power cables, signal cables, communication cables, lighting, cable ducts and bench walls throughout a seven-mile long flooded section of both tubes. Bench walls throughout those sections must be replaced to protect the structural integrity of the two tubes that carry trains through the tunnel.

During this rehabilitation process, the MTA will also make significant improvements to stations and tunnel segments closest to the under-river section. New stairs and elevators will be installed at the Bedford Ave. station in Brooklyn and the 1 Ave. station in Manhattan and three new electric substations will be installed, providing more power to operate additional trains during rush hours.

Procurement of design and construction services for the project must begin to move forward this year in order to ensure that hundreds of millions of federal dollars are not lost.

MTA New York City Transit continues to closely inspect the Canarsie Tunnel and takes steps daily to ensure that it remains reliable until permanent repairs can be performed. Specifically, the agency has stepped up its inspection of the tunnel walls and has installed redundant power cables to ensure the pumping system will operate without interruption, but these are temporary measures and the tunnel must undergo extensive repairs.

Prior to the closure of the Canarsie Tunnel, the agency is preparing to rebuild two crucial sections of the M line in Brooklyn and Queens in order to ensure that two decades-old deteriorating overpasses remain safe for travel.

Categories: Ballast, Ties, Rail, C&S, ON Track Maintenance, Rapid Transit/Light Rail, Safety/Training
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