The New York City subway system is a mess, and fixing it is going to be a trying experience for straphangers and transit officials alike. In an MTA Board Meeting on Thursday, the body approved a new round of contracts that provides a better picture of some of the service interruptions to come.
Under the new agreement, a total of eight stations in Manhattan and the Bronx will undergo comprehensive upgrades and repairs. The work is umbrellaed under the MTA’s Enhanced Station Initiative, a $3.3 billion plan for upgrading dilapidated stations across the city. The approved work will take place at both of the subway stations at 34th Street–Penn Station; the F and M stop at 23rd Street; the 6 stop at 28th Street; the F stop at 57th Street; the 3 stop at 145th Street; and the B and D stops at both 167th Street and 174th–175th Streets.
As a whole, those stops serve more than 250,000 riders on an average weekday, according to 2016 data from the MTA. The total cost of the repairs will exceed $200 million, and a timeline for the closures has not yet been released. Last year, a similar set of Enhanced Station Initiative repairs was announced for three R train stops in Brooklyn, which closed each station for six months. That move drew a great amount of controversy because commuters were given just five days notice of the closures. To the MTA’s credit, however, newly appointed New York City Transit president Andy Byford has made a point of improving transparency and communications since taking office last November.
The repairs at each of the Penn Station subway stops will not lead to closures, according to documents from the meeting, but riders can expect months-long closures at the other six stops in question.
The approved work at these stations drew a great deal of controversy, specifically from MTA Board members that were appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Those members criticized the plan for focusing too much on cosmetic upgrades, but Byford asserts that any aesthetic improvements involved in the plan are secondary to essential infrastructure renovations.
“If I had concluded in my findings that it was merely addressing aesthetics, I would not be supporting this,” Byford said at the meeting. “But it's not.”
Byford also pointed out that the average age of New York City’s subway stations is a jarring 95 years old, which goes a long way in explaining their shabby appearances.
More details on the exact timeline of the station closures are expected in the coming months. The construction is poised to affect thousands of straphangers, but, hey, at least the MTA hasn’t decided to shut down 24-hour service yet.