The dreaded L train shutdown is just eight months away, and while the 275,000 New Yorkers who rely on the line every day are battening down the hatches, the MTA announced a lengthy slate of weekend work that will give straphangers a preview of the hell to come.
On Saturday, the authority announced that it would be shutting down L service between Manhattan and Brooklyn during 15 weekends in advance of the 15-month Canarsie Tunnel closure slated for April 2019. The first of these weekend service changes is slated to kick off this Friday, August 10 at 11:30pm, and will be in effect until the early hours of Monday, August 13. The MTA will also pause interborough service every weekend in October, and the weekends spanning November 9–12 and November 16–19. All four weekends in February, three in March and one in April will see L train service closures as well.
Looks like the L is shutting down every weekend in October, February, and most of March (plus a bunch of other weekends) to prep for the *actual* shutdown to "ensure project duration stays within 15 months." pic.twitter.com/e3oket7Gdd— Aaron W. Gordon (@A_W_Gordon) August 6, 2018
The work being done will help prep crews for next year's tunnel reconstruction. They'll be making key track and signal updates, and digging elevator shafts and entrances at the First Avenue station that will enable the transfer of construction material during the shutdown, the MTA says.
During the course of the planned weekend work, the MTA says it will offer free shuttle bus service along every L stop in Brooklyn, and “enhancing subway and bus service in Manhattan and Brooklyn.”
“Our crews are working hard on track and signal infrastructure during periods of lower ridership so that while the L train tunnel is reconstructed and we run in Brooklyn only next year, it’s the most reliable service we can deliver on the line,” NYC Transit president Andy Byford said in a statement. “We thank our customers for their patience and understanding while we perform this important work that will not only improve service today but is also critical to ensuring next year’s reconstruction project goes as smoothly as possible.”
Next year's L train closure is the final major piece in the MTA's ongoing effort to repair damage on the subway system caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It's one of nine underwater MTA tunnels that flooded during the storm, and New Yorkers have suffered through line closures and weekend service changes since. Heck, the authority just restored weekend service on the 2 and 3 lines between Manhattan and Brooklyn after a shutdown that lasted more than a year.
In any case, the upcoming weekend closures will give New Yorkers a taste of what's to come—but these closures may be even harder to deal with than the 15-month-long one coming in April. The city's Department of Transportation is working with the MTA on a mitigation plan that, among other things, will effectively turn 14th Street into a busway. But as that plan isn't expected to be rolled out until next year, interborough travelers will be left to their own devices as they figure out how to cross the East River.