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Transit advocates: Traffic nightmare could result from L-train repairs and lack of mitigation plans

February 15, 2019 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Commuters wait as an L train arrives at the Broadway Junction subway station in Brooklyn. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File

While some North Brooklyn residents are still celebrating Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cancellation of the proposed 15-month shutdown of the L train’s East River tunnel last month, transit advocates say the new plan could lead to severe overcrowding, both on trains and nearby roads.

When the MTA announced that weeknight L service will start being curtailed at 8 p.m. — more than an hour and a half before delays were originally scheduled to begin — the transit agency also announced it was dropping most of the mitigation plans it had devised to deal with the 15-month shutdown.

These plans included HOV-only lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge, a car-free “busway” on Manhattan’s 14th Street, shuttle-bus routes over the bridge, additional bike stands and more. Instead, according to Gothamist, MTA “will be running some additional service to the 7, G and M lines.”

To accommodate work on the East River tunnel, which was heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy, one of the L train’s two tubes will now be closed during nights and weekends. This would mean 15- to 20-minute headways during those hours, MTA Acting Chair Fernando Ferrer said at Cuomo’s press conference in January, Curbed reported.

“The danger is that when people get frustrated, they’re going to hop in their cars, and it’s going to cause many of the same traffic impacts we were afraid of with a full shutdown,” Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance told Gothamist.

Without the HOV lanes on the bridge and a 14th Street busway to ease traffic problems, unexpected disruptions on the L train will now lead to a “full-scale L-pocalypse,” Pearlstein said.

MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim admitted during a phone call with reporters that there were some concerns about the new plan.

“We kind of know that for some customers, with a 20-minute headway, they won’t wait for that,” Gothamist quoted him as saying. “They won’t be satisfied with that, and they’re going to choose alternate subway service. So we’re not exactly sure what that means in terms of crowds.”

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Temporarily, L-train riders are enduring even more hardships in preparation for the new service plan to begin. This month, weeknight service has been totally stopped on the line west of Broadway Junction, the Eagle reported on Jan. 28.

In addition, for seven weekends this month and in March, weekend service has been stopped between Broadway Junction and Manhattan. The work is necessarily to prepare the tracks for Cuomo’s new service plan, MTA says.

The repair work is estimated to take 15 to 20 months.

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