The L Train needs to be repaired. This we know. Years of neglecting ongoing maintenance and repair left the L line, especially the Canarsie Tunnel that runs under the East River, exceptionally vulnerable to a natural disaster. And that natural disaster came in 2012, courtesy of Super Storm Sandy, which dumped 7 million gallons of corrosive salt water into the tunnel, damaging a mile long section of tracks, signals, switches and power cables – essentially the whole shebang.
For three years the City, State and the MTA debated whether to shut down the L altogether so that repairs could move faster, or to stretch out the length of the repairs in order to keep the line running, at least on weekdays. After initially deciding on a total shutdown (lasting 15 months), the MTA now appears to have committed to a third option proposed by Governor Cuomo that will keep the train running on weekdays and will “only” take 15 to 20 months.
But this will still be nightmarish. There will be no L service nights and weekends, and even during weekdays service will be spotty at best. As for the cost: about $500 Million, give or take.
Meanwhile above ground, the section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that runs below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade is corroding and needs to be rebuilt. As was initially the case with the L Train, the City is considering two options. Plan A would take about 6 years, but would close the Promenade for the entire construction period. Plan B would only close the Promenade for 2 years, but would take over 8 years to complete the entire project. Both plans come in at a cost of about $3.5 Billion. As of now, the City does not have the bulk of this money.
The L and the BQE projects are just the tip of the iceberg. The entire subway system (which is the lifeblood of the City) is desperately in need of repair and renovation. There are only two rail tunnels for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains that run under the Hudson River, both of which are both old and prone to problems, and construction of new tunnels hasn’t even started yet. Of course, new tunnels could have been completed by now if an earlier plan hadn’t been derailed by Governor Transportation himself, Chris Christie. Water pipes need replacing, bridges are crumbling; the list goes on and on.
The point is that we need to rebuild our infrastructure, and we need to accept that this is going to hurt. There is no easy way to pay for all of this. Legalizing and taxing marijuana will bring in some funds, but not nearly enough. So expect to see an increase in taxes and user fees. This will probably include a congestion pricing scheme assessed on vehicles that enter midtown Manhattan on weekdays.
Furthermore, you can’t keep a roadway, bridge or subway operating at full capacity while you make significant renovations, so expect transportation headaches of the migraine variety. Of course, the City and State should make all possible efforts to minimize costs and inconvenience to the extent they can, but there is no way to do this cheap or easily.
We need to face the facts; rebuilding New York City’s infrastructure after all these years of neglect will be expensive, difficult, and time consuming, but it has to be done.