Busy NYC subway tunnel to close for 18 months for repairs

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A subway tunnel that was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy will be closed for 18 months starting January 2019 for repairs, shutting down one of the system’s most crowded lines that connects Manhattan with vibrant neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, officials said Monday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority decision means places like Williamsburg and Bushwick that had thrived in recent years as draws for young people, arts and nightlife with have their East River transportation lifeline to Manhattan severed.

The MTA chose to close the Canarsie Tube completely for a year and a half instead of a three-year partial shutdown. The L train will see all service through the tunnel and on the Manhattan portion shut down. Trains will continue to run in Brooklyn only.

The line has seen a sizeable increase in riders since 1990, and now has 400,000 rides on an average day. Of those, about 225,000 go through the Canarsie Tube.

Riders will be forced onto alternate forms of transportation, including other subway lines, ferries and buses.

Katie Toups, who uses the L to get to her job as a nanny in Williamsburg from further out in Brooklyn, was resigned. “What are you going to do?” the 28-year-old said. “If things need to get fixed, the city has to fix them.”

Candice Freshko, who works at a bar in Williamsburg, was concerned about the economic impact at bars and shops in the popular neighbourhood. “It will be crushing for a lot of businesses around here” when the tunnel is closed, she said.

In 2012, Sandy flooded seven miles of the tube, damaging tracks, signals, signal cables, lighting, switches and more.

The MTA held public hearings and officials visited community boards along the L train line to get a sense of public sentiment. The agency said a strong majority favoured the shorter total shutdown.

The agency said the shutdown would allow it to make improvements to stations, including new stairs and elevators at a station in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan. Three new electrical substations will also be added, which the MTA said would allow it to operate more trains.

The Riders Alliance, a group that advocates on public transit issues, supported the 18-month choice. Organizer Masha Burina said the MTA made “the right call” but “should work with riders and with communities along the entire L train to come up with an aggressive plan to provide service when the tunnel is closed for construction.”