With just months to go before the dreaded full shutdown of the L train between 8th Avenue in Manhattan and Bedford Ave in Brooklyn, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo halted shutdown plans, presenting a new plan that would allow the L to remain open during repairs, albeit with reduced service on nights and weekends. Now the MTA has released a new statement saying that "[the] total shutdown of both tunnels and all service scheduled for April 27 will not be necessary. We do anticipate a shutdown of one tube on nights and weekends, however service both ways (between Manhattan and Brooklyn) would be scheduled 24/7."

New York Post spoke to an MTA insider who said Cuomo had influenced the announcement:

"Cuomo is saying he knows more about the technology stuff than the technology experts on the MTA board," the official said. "It’s just a demonstration of who runs the show. This is Cuomo being completely dominant over the MTA."

Because the Cuomo plan is not expected to cost more than the full shutdown, MTA leaders claims they don't need board approval on a revised contract for the work, an MTA official told the New York Times. However, in a public hearing on Tuesday, board members called for an independent review of the new plans, AM New York reports, citing questions over the production of harmful silica dust from the work, among other things.

Mary Boyce and Lance Collins, deans of engineering at Columbia University and Cornell University, respectively, advised Cuomo on the shutdown alternative plans, and presented their case in a new New York Times opinion piece, "Why Our New Plan for Repairing the L-Train Tunnel Is Best":

With a plan to mount the cables along the wall, we then asked ourselves whether removing all of the bench wall — a time-consuming, fraught and expensive endeavor — was necessary. In fact, inspections have indicated that, at most, 40 percent of it is damaged, and we have proposed demolishing only the heavily damaged sections, leaving intact the structurally sound parts.

The purpose of the bench wall in the new plan is solely to provide a pathway for access by maintenance workers and an emergency exit.

The parts to be removed would be replaced with a fiberglass or steel walkway that is considerably easier to install than a new concrete structure. Proven fiber-reinforced polymer — a solution used to strengthen critical load-bearing infrastructure such as bridges — would be used to further strengthen remaining bench wall.

In replacing only the damaged sections, the work can be done in increments on nights and weekends — and we would avoid the total shutdown of the subway line. Our plan would also reduce the amount of hazardous silica dust that results from demolition of the bench wall. We recommend the whole process be monitored by an external agency to further ensure safety.
We are aware that our proposal is a unique approach to the tunnel restoration. Some have referred to it as a “patch job” — but nothing could be further from the truth.

Read the full opinion piece here.

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