New York governor blocks full shutdown of subway line for repairs


NEW YORK (Reuters) – More than two years after the announcement that one of New York City’s busiest subway lines would stop running between Manhattan and Brooklyn to allow for repairs, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that service would not be halted after all.

Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gives a news conference after casting his vote for the midterm elections, at the Presbyterian Church in Mt. Kisco, New York, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs/File Photo

The expected closure of the L train tunnel under the East River for at least 15 months had dismayed residents of the Brooklyn communities of Williamsburg, Bushwick and beyond, who were bracing themselves for squeezing onto other already crowded lines or into promised new bus services. Some even moved out of their neighborhoods.

Cuomo told a news conference that engineering experts from Cornell and Columbia universities had looked at the plans over the last few weeks drawn up by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that runs the subway, and found them needlessly disruptive.

“The simple fact is you have roughly 250,000 people who would need another way to get to work,” Cuomo said.

Under the new plan, work would take place only on nights and weekends, with trains running on limited service through one of the two tubes inside the tunnel.

Fernando Ferrer, the MTA’s acting chairman, said at the news conference the MTA would adopt the academics’ plan and that, beginning in the spring, it will take 15 to 20 months to complete.

Asked whether he would promise that work would not exceed 20 months, Cuomo said: “I can’t promise,” before chiding the reporter for asking what he called “a silly question.”

The repairs were necessary to fix damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, one of the most devastating storms ever to hit the U.S. East Coast. Although the century-old tunnel is structurally sound, salt water from the East River leaks inside, corroding electrical switches and power lines.

“Salt water and electronics do not mix,” Cuomo said.

One of the biggest changes in the new plan is that the MTA will no longer remove and replace all 32,000 feet of benchwall, a gangway-like walkway that allows workers, or evacuating passengers, to walk along the edge of the tunnel.

Instead, weakened parts of the benchwall will be patched up with strengthened, industrial-use plastic. The cables that currently run inside the benchwall will instead be suspended from racks higher up the tunnel wall.

Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Dan Grebler and Susan Thomas

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