L Train Tunnel Repairs Done 3 Months Early, Cuomo Says

Anna Quinn

L TRAIN CORRIDOR, NYC — The typical 400,000 daily L train riders may have to wait a few more months to use it, but the year-long reconstruction of the Canarsie Tunnel has finished, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing that the construction project, which slowed down the L train on nights and weekends, had wrapped up on Sunday.

The finished repairs, confirmed by an MTA spokesperson, come, as promised by Cuomo, three months ahead of the originally-projected schedule of 15 months. The reconstruction project started last April after Cuomo announced that an originally planned full shutdown of the L train wasn't necessary.

"While New Yorkers continue to cope with the devastating impact of COVID-19, the L train project completion is timely proof that when we are confronted with a challenge we can build back better and stronger," Cuomo said.

The L train was originally going to shut down for at least 15 months when, to the surprise of straphangers and transit officials, Cuomo had engineers come up with a new way to do the repairs in January.

The repair project has made it so the L train only runs every 20 minutes on weeknights and weekends as crews rehab the tunnel's damage from Hurricane Sandy. The transit line will return to its normal schedule starting Monday.

Cuomo pointed to the L train project in his Sunday briefing as an example of "thinking outside the box," which he said will be needed to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

"The opposition to this new idea was an explosion...but we did it anyway and we went ahead with it," Cuomo said. "I relay this story because you can question and you should question why we do what we do…and why can’t we do it a different way."

Cuomo characterized the hesitation to his new L train plan as a resistance to change, though at the time his approach more so raised concerns about its timing and transparency.

The governor halted the shutdown of the L train only a few months before it was scheduled to begin and after three years of costly and time-consuming planning for the project. Many elected officials and advocates wondered whether there would be enough time to vet the new approach, which had never been used in the United States before.

The tunnel work on the first Canarsie tube included new fire-resistant cables, new tracks and a new fiber-optic monitoring system. It was developed by experts Cuomo brought in from Cornell and Columbia University.

The L train project also included work on several stations, which will continue as the train schedule returns to normal. These repairs include new entrances at the 1st Avenue station and Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn and a new escalator at 14th Street-Union Square station.

This article originally appeared on the West Village Patch