Jan. 14, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
The MTA announced over the weekend that it will hold an emergency board meeting tomorrow to go over plans for the L train tunnel reconstruction.
Consulting firm WSP, which designed the original 15-month shutdown plan, will attend the Jan. 15 meeting and go over its new plan for the tunnel, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and his team of Ivy-league experts.
“WSP will be recommending to the Board that it pursue the modified plan as a better alternative, as it does not require a total shutdown of L train service,” the MTA said in a press release regarding the meeting.
Board members, however, will not be voting to approve the new plan at the meeting. Rather, the meeting will serve as an information session and opportunity for discussion.
The board will also discuss whether to hire a consultant who will oversee operations and precautions for the reconstruction, and will report directly to the chairman and the board.
The meeting comes 12 days after Cuomo’s eleventh hour announcement of a new plan for the Canarsie Tunnel reconstruction that would no longer require a full shutdown.
A team of engineers assembled by the governor in December are recommending that the MTA, rather than demolish and reconstruct the cable system embedded inside the tunnel’s benchwall, build a new electrical cable system racked on the tunnel walls and wrapped in fiberglass-reinforced polymer instead.
The new construction plan is expected to take 15 to 20 months, about the same time frame as the original shutdown plan, and could start in April.
At the time of Cuomo’s announcement, the new plan all but appeared to be in motion, until reports said that the plan had yet to be approved by the board.
Initially, Cuomo called for an emergency MTA board meeting to be held earlier in January, but was dismissed by NYC Transit President Andy Byford, who said the board could not meet on such short notice.
“I’m now undertaking a due diligence exercise to look at the outstanding questions that I have from a safety perspective,” Byford told amNY last week, adding “It’s got to be done properly. I’d rather start it a little later than rush it and not do it properly.”
During a Jan. 8 Manhattan Community Board 3 meeting, Byford promised that Cuomo’s plan would be reviewed by an independent team of engineers.
“I want to be certain through a safety perspective, I want to be certain from an operational perspective, I want to be certain from a customer perspective that this plan is going to be viable and workable, and that we can provide a decent alternative service to you,” Byford said.
Some of the MTA’s board members appear to be frustrated with the decision to call the board meeting on such short notice, with board member Veronica Vanterpool tweeting out that it is a waste of “time and limited resources for a publicity stunt.”