Thursday, in announcing that the L train won’t shut down for 15 months between Canarsie and 14th Street starting in April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave 250,000 daily riders a reprieve. But the governor also threw away years of planning by the state-run MTA, which said there was no alternative. If the governor’s right, he’ll save New York aggravation. If he’s wrong, he’s catastrophically wrong — and a big part of his legacy will be his successors having (literally) to pick up the pieces.
Since mid-2016, the MTA has been clear: The tunnel suffered “extensive damage” during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, including to “bench walls” encasing power and communication cables. “Bench walls throughout those sections must be replaced to protect the structural integrity of the two tubes,” it said back then. The MTA, at four town hall meetings and a dozen or so smaller meetings, gave riders a choice: Get it done all it once, over the 15-month closure, or close one tube at a time, disrupting service for 80 percent of passengers anyway, with long waits for one-way travel.
Most riders — 77 percent — favored the full closure. After awarding the $500 million contract for the work nearly two years ago, both the MTA and the city have been planning for the L-pocalypse, with more buses, ferries and bikes.