Well, this is a stunning turn of events.
After months of dread over the impending 15-month shutdown of a major subway tunnel, New Yorkers are now being told that the whole thing may be unnecessary.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a surprise press conference, said today that the L train that shuffles some 400,000 daily commuters can be spared the full shutdown of a tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan thanks to a revised design plan that takes advantage of new technology. Under the plan, some night and weekend closures would still be necessary, but only of one of the tubes within the tunnel, not both at a time.
The shutdown was slated to begin on April 27 to repair damage to a tunnel caused by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. It was expected to cause huge disruptions to commuters in some of Brooklyn’s densest neighborhoods, along with those in much of Lower Manhattan, where the line traverses the island along 14th Street.
Indeed, the line is so vital to the daily comings and goings of New Yorkers and visitors that it’s hard to conceive of life in New York without it. According to the MTA–New York’s quasi-corporate transportation agency–if the L train were an independent transit operation, it would rank 11th among all North American rail systems.
Even without the L-train shutdown, New York’s 115-year-old subway system is facing an infrastructure crisis, plagued with frequent delays, mechanical breakdowns, and outdated signal technology. Cuomo has received fierce criticism for his handling of the subway crisis, sparking hashtags like #CuomosMTA, which routinely surface on Twitter when a breakdown occurs. Cynthia Nixon, Cuomo’s opponent during the state’s primary last year, capitalized on the backlash by making the subway crisis a centerpiece of her gubernatorial campaign.
Rumor’s of today’s announcement started circulating earlier today, with one eagle-eyed reporter spotting the new calendar item on Cuomo’s schedule.