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14th Street Should Be Shut Down to Cars Amid L Train Repairs, Study Says

By Gwynne Hogan | April 6, 2016 2:01pm
 The Regional Plan Association recommended an 18 month shutdown of the L train west of Lorimer Street this week.
The Regional Plan Association recommended an 18 month shutdown of the L train west of Lorimer Street this week.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

BROOKLYN — Shut it down.

A new plan recommended by a think tank recommends banning private vehicles from 14th Street in Manhattan and dedicating the crosstown street to pedestrians, bikes and buses if the MTA completely shuts down the L train for a round of Hurricane Sandy-related repairs.

Manhattan public policy think tank the Regional Plan Association wrote in a new report that if the L train service completely for 18 months between Lorimer and Eighth avenues, which they support, the MTA will need a host of alternative options for the more than 300,000 riders a day who use the L.

The group said the city should close off 14th Street between Irving Place and Sixth Avenue in both directions to private cars, using it for pedestrians, bikes and bus lanes, according to the group's report released Tuesday.

Trucks would have to make deliveries to 14th Street overnight, or use loading zones on nearby Avenues that would take the place of parking spaces, according to the report.

Car traffic could travel east of Irving Place and West of Sixth Ave., but only one-way towards each river, according to the report.

They also recommended running more buses from the Lorimer St. station over the Williamsburg bridge, tacking on extra cars to the G trains and offering free transfers from ferries to buses, among other ideas.

An earlier report found that in order to accommodate all the displaced L train riders with sufficient bus service, officials would have to build an additional bridge over the east river to fit all the buses.

The RPA is pushing for a full shutdown of the L train, they said, because it would be the most cost effective option and would give the MTA a chance to upgrade the train line to cater to exploding ridership.

The think tank proposals have much broader scope than earlier ideas of what a total closure might look like, where only L train traffic between Bedford Avenue and First Avenue would be halted. Ridership at the Bedford Avenue stop stop has surged by 373 percent since 1995.

"The loss of the L train service to and within Manhattan for an 18-month period will be disruptive, but doubling the construction timeline, along with the higher associated costs and extending the pain of a huge service cut is far less desirable," according to the report.

RPA a New L Train for New Yorkers

The RPA evaluated the three ideas for the shutdown that had already been discussed publicly to come up with their assessment, said Richard Barone, the Vice President of Transportation at the RPA — a full shutdown, a partial shutdown where one tunnel is repaired at a time, and building a third tunnel.

"This is not going to be a painless closure, [but]... it's a year year and half," Barone said. "In the end...we'll have a much better system. It can be pretty transformative."

The Canarsie Tube, which connects Brooklyn and Manhattan along the L line, flooded during Hurricane Sandy and needs repairs, according to the MTA.

But according to the RPA's assessment this week, the MTA should lump other upgrades to the line into Canarsie Tube repairs to prepare for surging ridership along the line. 

The MTA could boost capacity to 30 or more trains per hour by investing in new subway cars, increased electrical power, and subway car storage space, according to the report. Currently the line has capacity for just 20 trains an hour.

The MTA, which has kept the repair plans secret, would not comment on the specifics of the report.

"Service plans are still being developed and we are considering all options," MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.