When the MTA first announced it would close the L train’s Manhattan-to-Brooklyn tunnel, possibly for years, riders panicked, and understandably so. The L carries about 350,000 people on an average weekday — it’s a crucial line for anyone who commutes from Brooklyn to Manhattan. But the agency’s “rip off the Band-Aid” approach was plausible: Either one side of the line would be closed at a time, meaning repairs would take perhaps three years, or the whole thing would shut down for just a year or so. Both options offered relatively little pain for expansive gain: A glitchy and overcrowded line would function faster and better. Now, however, a city councilman has revealed that repairs might take up to seven years to complete, and the reaction, as you’d expect, has been one collective local, artisanal OMG.
At a Brooklyn community board meeting Tuesday night, Councilman Stephen Levin, who’d recently attended the first of a series of meetings between the MTA and city officials, gave his constituents a bit of bad news. “It’s going to be significantly disruptive,” he said. If “you’re talking about a full shutdown, which is kind of mind boggling to me—that would be probably two years. If you’re looking at just nights and weekends, that’s more like five, six, seven years. We’re talking significant work.” In other words, the MTA now appears to be entertaining a third, more conventional option for repairs: continue daytime service as normal, but work on nights and weekends.
The whole dreary process will probably begin in 2018, but Levin emphasized the need to make the decision soon. “We have about $700 million federal funds for Sandy recovery that can be dedicated to this,” he said. “That’s not money you can always count on being there,” especially given that whoever takes office this November may have different plans for it. In short, the L train might be out of commission for even longer than was originally planned. At least we might get that nifty streetcar in the meantime, so people will be able to tool around Brooklyn if they can’t get to Manhattan.