MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) announced that the massive reconstruction work needed to the Canarsie Tunnel, which carries the L train under the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, will require a full closure of the tunnel for 18 months starting no sooner than 2019.

The decision to do the work under a full 18-month tunnel closure, instead of a one-track, three-year closure, was made based on a detailed operational review, and only after significant community engagement to consider all adverse impacts, according to the agency. Serious consideration was also given to consequences of unplanned outages that would occur if one track was closed for three years.

“While the MTA always looks to avoid service disruptions, there is no question that repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel are critical and cannot be avoided or delayed. Throughout this process we have committed to engaging the community and listening to all concerns so that we can address them as we prepare for this necessary work,” MTA Chairman/CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. 

Since May, the MTA has held four large-scale, interactive community meetings in communities affected by the upcoming closure, which were led by Prendergast, NYCT President Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, Chief of Operations Planning Peter Cafiero, and Sr. VP for Capital Program Management John O’Grady.

MTA officials also visited all 11 Community Boards along the L Line, which were overwhelmingly in favor of the full, shorter-duration closure. Of the comments MTA received directly through email, social media and at meetings, 77% were in favor of the full, shorter closure.

“We think it is better to have a shorter duration of pain than a longer more unstable process — and risk unplanned closures — by leaving one track open during construction,” Hakim said.

The Canarsie Tunnel was one of nine underwater tunnels that flooded during Superstorm Sandy, all of which required major rehabilitation and repair. Some of that work was accomplished during night and weekend closures, while the R line’s Montague Tunnel under the East River was closed for 13 months and the G line tunnel under Newtown Creek was closed for two months, both for complete renovations.

The Canarsie Tunnel suffered extensive damage to tracks, signals, switches, power cables, signal cables, communication cables, lighting, cable ducts and bench walls throughout a seven-mile long flooded section of both tubes. Bench walls throughout those sections must be replaced to protect the structural integrity of the two tubes that carry trains through the tunnel.

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