Two weeks after Governor Cuomo announced he averted the dreaded L train shutdown, it’s not clear he has.
The MTA held an emergency meeting on his surprise plan to repair the line's East River tunnel without suspending service for 15 months.
Some MTA board members voiced anger about the fact that they’re only hearing details about his plan now.
“We aren’t empty suits we know what we are doing,” said Charles Moerdler, an MTA Board Member.
Transit advocates are not happy for a few reasons.
For one, they're worried the plan cuts corners and could cause leaks in the tunnel, with catastrophic consequences.
"What is the safety plan for silica dust, will work trains travel through active stations and communities, what damage will affixing the racking system do to the tunnel walls," said Lisa Daglian, Executive Director of NYC Transit Rider Council.
Five years ago, an MTA consultant weighed a similar approach but said it could spread cancer-causing silica dust.
But the consulting firm WSP now says it agrees with Cuomo about the approach being done safely.
The MTA official who oversees the subways says it’s about innovation.
Until Cuomo stepped in, the MTA planned to shut the tunnel for 15 months to repair power cables embedded in the tunnel wall that were damaged by salt water from Hurricane Sandy.
The Cuomo plan would leave the damaged cables alone, and hang new cables along the tunnel wall.
WSP officials admit the Cuomo plan would not be as comprehensive as a total rebuild of the tunnel, and they cannot say if the repairs would be as durable.
Critics say bolting cables to the wall could damage the lining and allow leaks. WSP says that won’t happen.
There’s also concern keeping trains running would expose riders to cancer causing dust. WSP says the project will comply with all environmental standards.
"Typically we have monitoring, we have tools that capture the silica dust as it is being generated,” said Warren Goodman, the Health and Safety Manager at Judlau Contracting. “We may use other methods that are available and the workers will be wearing personal protective equipment we would call masks and filters."
The MTA board is only listening right now. It will vote on the governor's plan at a later date, after an independent consultant evaluates the new plan.