Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a panel of Ivy League engineering experts on Thursday unveiled their last-minute 10-point plan to dodge the dreaded 24/7 L-train shutdown with cutting-edge technology never before used on US rails.
“A closure of 15 months was highly problematic,” said Cuomo of the no-longer impending “L-pocalypse” that was slated to hamstring some 250,000 daily commutes starting April 27. “We needed an idea outside the box.”
What a group of experts including the deans of Columbia and Cornell’s engineering schools came up with was a comprehensive plan that begins with triaging the concrete service walkway — or “benchwall” — lining the Canarsie Tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Workers will identify portions of the tunnel so badly eroded by a deluge of salt water during Hurricane Sandy that they need to be demolished and replaced, and those that can be salvaged and repaired.
The benchwall will then be covered over by a reinforced fiberglass lining, and the existing cables within the benchwall deactivated.
A new, fireproof system of cables will be installed and “racked” along the tunnel walls, allowing workers easy access to them, a system already used in rail systems in London, Riyadh and Hong Kong, the team said.
Other improvements include the installation of “submarine”-style doors at both ends of the tunnel to head off future flooding, and similar failsafes in ventilation systems lining the tunnel.
Cuomo and acting MTA Chairman Fernando Ferrer insist that the new plan will allow service to continue as usual on weekdays, and continue to operate with waits of 15 to 20 minutes on nights and weekends, with the tunnel’s two tubes closed down one at a time.
And, all told, the new plan is expected to take 15 to 20 months at a similar price point to the existing $400 million contract already signed for the now-scrapped shutdown, Cuomo maintains.
“We believe it can be done within the envelope,” said Cuomo, referring to that figure, and adding that the contract won’t go back up for bidding despite the massive and abrupt change of plans.
The plan would still get under way in late April, Ferrer said.
“It’s faster, it’s cheaper, it’s better than the way we have been doing it now,” crowed Cuomo. “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
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