What the L?: Breaking down the new strategy that scrapped ‘L-pocalypse’

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MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford is confident that a new plan -  the one that reversed nearly three years of L train shutdown panic - will be successful.

“The genius of this plan is that we don’t now need to impact 225,000 people every weekday,” he told News 12. “The L line will stay open and in the weeknights and weekends. We will be maintaining a one-tunnel operation.”

The old plan called for a 15-month complete suspension of service between Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. It called for the demolition and rebuilding of the concrete benchwall inside the tunnel and improvements to several stations along the way.

Special Reports: What the L? The reversal and the damage done | What the L? Only time will tell if new track plan will work 

Byford says elevator upgrades, tunnel renovating and new track work will still be performed.

“We are still repairing a lot of the damage that was reaped by Superstorm Sandy,” he says.

Now, however, the new plan abandons the old cables in the benchwall. Instead, it racks new cables on the wall above. Officials say new technology allows those cables to withstand fire for up to two hours without them having to be encased in concrete.

But many are wondering: If that approach was even an option, why wasn’t it put on the table sooner?

And what about the old benchwall? Officials say only a stretch of a few thousand feet of the most deteriorated concrete will be demolished. Some small portions will be kept in place using fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP).

Also, a fiber optic cable will be installed to monitor the tunnel for any instability.

MTA officials say the partial demolition will significantly decrease the amount of silica dust that is created. The dust comes from concrete demolition and is known to be dangerous if inhaled. But if trains will be running as construction is taking place, how can the MTA ensure that air quality in the tunnels will be safe?

Byford says they will be monitoring air quality on three different levels: In the work zone, 100-200 feet away from the work zone and in public areas at all times.

L train service between Bedford Avenue and Eighth Avenue will run every 20 minutes on nights and weekends. The MTA will also run free shuttles between Bedford Avenue and other subway lines. In addition, it plans to ramp up bus service in Manhattan.

Byford says he hopes the project will be done in 15 to 20 months.

“I’m not interested in a Band-Aid job,” says Byford. “I want this to be done properly. The engineers have demonstrated to us that this is actually a proper fix.”

Construction is set to begin on April 27.

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