Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, MTA Completes Project Three Months ahead of Current Schedule; Six Months ahead of Original Proposal That Included Full Tunnel Shutdown; and Under Budget - Saving $100 Million
L Train Service Will Resume on Both Tracks During Overnights and Weekends Starting Monday, April 27 under MTA Essential Service Plan
Additional L Project Station, Capacity and Accessibility Upgrades Slated to Be Completed by Fall 2020
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the nation-leading, innovative L tunnel project is complete - six months earlier than the original proposal that would have shut down service, and three months ahead of the new innovative plan announced in January 2019, after the Governor convened a panel of engineering experts who determined a disruptive total shutdown was unnecessary. Completion came through under budget, saving more than $100 million in project costs. Beginning Monday, April 27, L train service will resume its previous service schedules with adjustments under the MTA Essential Service Plan.
In January of 2019, with a full L shutdown looming to repair damage from Superstorm Sandy, Governor Cuomo convened academic leaders - including the deans of the Cornell University and Columbia University engineering schools - to review the two L tubes and determine if the rehabilitation work could be completed in a more efficient manner. Following their review, the academic team recommended new construction methods and technology that have been used in transit systems around the world and several industries, yet never before integrated in a similar project in the United States. Once rehabilitation work began in April, these techniques allowed New York City Transit to continue to run subway service in the tunnel throughout construction so that regular weekday commutes for the bulk of L customers between Manhattan and Brooklyn were not disrupted. Prior to those recommendations, NYC Transit had planned to close the entire L train tunnel to demolish and reconstruct the tunnel's infrastructure.
The completion of the tunnel rehabilitation project, which began in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, comes amidst the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 global health pandemic. To ensure the project remained on schedule for completion, MTA Construction & Development implemented a number of aggressive health and safety protections for employees and contractors, including launching a new daily reporting app, mandatory use of personal protective equipment, around-the-clock disinfection of contact surfaces, a ban on sharing of tools and closure of common facilities, among other steps.
"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 - especially when we work together and think outside the box," Governor Cuomo said. "Everyone said we had to shut down the tunnel for 15 to 18 months, which was going to be a massive disruption for thousands of New Yorkers who rely on the L train. We challenged those who said there was no alternative solution and as a result today the MTA is delivering a more resilient tunnel with improved service that is ahead of schedule and under budget - all while averting a shutdown."
MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye said, "Even in the face of this unprecedented global health crisis, the MTA delivered this project safely, months ahead of schedule, well under budget and with no shutdown of service. This innovative approach is further proof that the 'new' MTA is committed to doing things differently to the benefit of our customers. I applaud the Governor for his leadership and his push for innovation and new solutions. I also want to thank our partners at Columbia and Cornell for their review and their recommendations."
Janno Lieber, Chief Development Officer and President, MTA Construction & Development, said, "At the new MTA C & D, our motto is 'faster, better, cheaper'. Thanks to the Governor and his team of experts, the Canarsie Tunnel project was able to live up to those goals. We're finishing three months ahead of schedule, using innovative technologies and construction methods, and saving the public millions."
The new construction methods used in the L project preserved service for 90 percent of the line's 400,000 total average weekday customers for the majority of the 12-month project with no shutdown. The revised approach to the tunnel rehabilitation resulted in a more resilient infrastructure in the L tunnel, specifically:
- Maintaining Service: By using the structural fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) panels to encase damaged portions of the old benchwall, the L tunnel was kept operational throughout the project so that service could be maintained - especially during the critical weekday A.M. and P.M. rush periods. This minimized customer disruption.
- Future adaptability: Many elements of transit infrastructure are physically locked-in, and can't be adapted for future growth and changes in technology. By contrast, the new cable racking system means that cables can easily be added and/or upgraded with the latest technology as needed.
- Dynamic longevity: Using the new fiber optic monitoring system, the structure of the L tunnel, especially the benchwall, is now constantly scrutinized and any necessary preventative measures can be proactively taken. This means adjustments can be made based on the constant and real-time data reporting of movement and temperature changes instead of waiting until significant issues arise.
Mary Cunningham Boyce, Dean of the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, said, "Columbia faculty were excited to participate on bringing new innovations into this challenging L Train rehabilitation - it is a credit to Governor Cuomo and the MTA to invite and, indeed, welcome, state-of-the-art approaches in materials and technologies that could lead to a more time and cost effective renovation which provided long-term solutions for those who ride the train every day. We're glad to help deliver just that. The impact on the lives of New Yorkers hits home for all of us. With the opening of the L Train tunnel ahead of schedule, we hope the MTA can use the fresh approach and new technologies we helped bring on future infrastructure projects."
Lance R. Collins, Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering at Cornell University, said, "We are proud to have worked with Governor Cuomo to find a new way to fix the L train tunnel without having to shut down service. 'That's the way it's always been done' is not a reason to maintain the status quo. Kudos to the MTA for delivering this important project ahead of schedule with minimal disruption for riders. We're glad to have played a part."
"The L train project completion is timely proof that when we are confronted with a challenge we can build back better and stronger - especially when we work together and think outside the box."
The completion of the L Project's tunnel rehabilitation work means that, starting Monday, April 27, L train service will resume on both tracks during the overnights and weekends. The alternative service options, including the M, G, 7, will resume their previous routes and schedules. Using the revised approach to the tunnel rehabilitation, the completed L tunnel results include:
- New cable management system using a racking system and new fire-resistant cables; includes 96,880 total combined feet of new communications, radio antenna, pump power and control, and fiber optic cables on the racks, and above the cable racks, 56,000 feet of new signal cables. An additional 77,710 feet of cable installed in the tunnel supports tunnel lighting, sound power phone, antenna and tunnel receptacle power. The racking system, a combined 14,220 linear feet in the two tubes, holds cables securely at specific locations while providing the necessary adaptability.
- New structure using industrial fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) to encase the old wall and to serve as the new wall structure between the tube and the tracks.
- New data-driven and preventative approach to monitoring tunnel resiliency: The new fiber optic monitoring system, installed along the entire wall of the tunnel including the new FRP and existing concrete, uses a total of 14,000 feet of specialized hydro- and geo-sensing fiber optic cables that report any movement of the tunnel wall instantly. The data is directly sent to the Rail Control Center, where it is continuously monitored by a dedicated team for patterns and who can respond to any issues in real-time.
- New 12,610 feet of track, including new plates and continuous welded rail: This creates a smoother ride for customers, as well as less friction on the tracks, lessening the need for maintenance and allowing trains to run more efficiently.
- New approach to power management with fourth rail within the New York City subway system: The existing third rail was repurposed as a fourth rail to provide the supplemental negative return to replace the negative return cables. This was a cost-savings and allowed for the cables to be installed alongside the new structural FRP.
- New 6,380 linear feet of discharge lines, plus new pipes, pumps and controls: Includes discharge pipe, 18 new pump manifolds and pumping system. The new system more than doubles the water pumping capacity and has a remote monitoring and control system.
- New energy-efficient and cost-efficient tunnel lighting system: Supporting Governor Cuomo's nation-leading clean energy initiative, a wirelessly monitored lighting system developed by a Long Island company that uses energy-efficient LEDs was installed in partnership with New York State Energy Research Development Authority. This is the first deployment of an IOT 900 MHz wireless mesh network health monitoring system for subway tunnel emergency lighting in the world, which ensures four hours of egress illumination in the event of a blackout.
- Environmental monitoring throughout the duration of the project with no exceedances in public health standards: Data was continuously collected to measure dust and silica levels against public health standards, and weekly reports were posted online. No exceedances occurred throughout the project.
Remaining L Project capacity and accessibility work is also continuing. This includes:
- 1 Av Station: There are two newly installed entrances and two existing entrances under rehabilitation. Customers will be advised with information and signage as the stairs open and close for final finishes.
- First Ave North anticipated to open in May 2020 with final granite work at street level scheduled for fall 2020 installation
- First Ave South anticipated to open on April 27 with final finishes and granite work at street level scheduled for summer and fall 2020
- Ave A North new entrance is currently open with final finishes scheduled for after First Ave North is open and remaining granite work at street level scheduled for fall 2020
- Ave A South new entrance is currently open with final finishes scheduled for after First Ave South is open and granite work at street level
- Two street to platform elevators at Avenue A on the north and south sides of 14th St: Estimated completion scheduled for summer 2020
- Street restoration along 14th St: Permanent paving expected to take place in May/June 2020
- Avenue B-area substation: High tension power connection expected to occur in May/June 2020
- Avenue D fan plant: Final work scheduled to be completed in June 2020
- New escalator at 14th St-Union Sq: Estimated completion is now scheduled for summer 2020 following contractor delays due to COVID-19
- Bedford Av Station: There are four newly installed stairs and four existing stairs under rehabilitation. Customers will be advised with information and signage as the stairs open and close for final finishes.
- Bedford North original entrance is currently open with final granite and digital signage finishes estimated for summer/fall 2020
- Bedford North new entrance will open in May 2020 with final granite and digital signage finishes to be completed after the Bedford North original entrance does the same
- Bedford South original entrance will open in May 2020, with final finishes to be completed after the Bedford South new entrance
- Bedford South new entrance will close for final finishes in May and be reopened in June/July 2020
- Driggs South (two stairs) will open at the end of May and final finishes will be installed after Driggs North does the same
- Driggs North (two stairs) will close in May for final finishes and is estimated to open during July/August 2020
- Platform stairs: Three of the four platform stairs are completed with final finishes, remaining stair is currently closed and will reopen with final finishes in May 2020
- Mezzanine extension is currently partially opened with the full opening estimated for June/July 2020
- Elevators from street to mezzanine and mezzanine to platform: Estimated completion scheduled for summer 2020
- Street restoration near Bedford Av Station: Estimated to start work May and complete by fall 2020
- N 7th fan plant: Final work scheduled to be completed in June 2020
- Two new substations near Maspeth Ave and Harrison Pl: High tension power connection expected to occur in May/June 2020
For more information and to subscribe to receive updates about the L Project, visit https://new.mta.info/l-project.