WILLIAMSBURG — No matter which way you slice it, L train riders are facing a long slog.
The MTA will decide in the next three months whether to opt for a full L-train shutdown of all stations west of Bedford Avenue that would last 18 months, or for a partial shutdown that could take up to three years and would only offer 1 in 5 passengers service to Manhattan, MTA officials announced at Thursday's town hall meeting.
The agency aims to award the repair contract by the end of the year to allow construction to begin by 2019, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.
Leading up to that decision, the agency will visit community boards along the L line to solicit feedback. It hosted the first of two public hearings centered on the L-train shutdown Thursday night in Williamsburg.
More than 100 North Brooklyn residents, commuters, business owners and real estate investors attended the meeting at the Marcy Avenue Armory to learn more about the L train's future.
"We want them to do it faster with no distractions," disabled activist Debra Greif said. The elevators slated for Bedford Avenue and First Avenue will change the way she accesses North Brooklyn, she said.
On Thursday, for the first time since news leaked that the agency would need to close the Canarsie Tunnel for an extended period, the MTA offered the public a detailed explanation about the two options under consideration.
A full shutdown was touted as the "get in, get done, get out approach," by NYC Transit President Veronique Hakim. The agency would be able to create an incentive for speedier construction if it gives the contractor full rein of the tunnel, she said.
But this option would mean no L service west of Bedford Avenue, closing all Manhattan stops.
A partial shutdown, according to the MTA’s proposal, looks bleak as well.
There would be no service between Bedford and Lorimer, meaning L train riders looking to get to or from Manhattan would get off and catch a shuttle bus between the two stations. Subway cars would need to turn around at Lorimer and at Bedford, necessitating the truncated service, officials said.
Between 8th Avenue and Bedford a shuttle train service would run every 12 to 15 minutes, accommodating only about one-fifth of the busy line's 225,000 daily riders.
Because one of the tubes in the tunnel would be undergoing work, it's also likely there would be unplanned issues and service interruptions. The MTA also would need to close the tunnel down entirely for periodic safety inspections.
Once the work is done, "we're not going to have to come back, hopefully for another 100 years," MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said.
Night and weekend construction is not an option because the silica dust that gets kicked up during demolition must be allowed to settle for up to two days before a tunnel could reopen, according to an MTA video that explains the required repair work in the Canarsie Tunnel that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Building a third tube is far too costly and would take between five and seven years. Linking it to the existing infrastructure would also present myriad technical challenges, Prendergast said, and the immediate problems need to be addressed more quickly.
Even before 2019, L train riders will face intermittent shutdowns as workers tackle repairs and address technical details in advance of the major construction, Hakim said.
Plans for alternate service haven't been finalized. But both the full- and partial-shutdown options would include more frequent service along the M, J, Z and G train lines. G trains would also get full-length cars to more than double that line's capacity, according to Hakim.
Other options for alternate service to Manhattan may include shuttle buses, additional ferries, a new ferry dock on 20th street and the opening of closed subway entrances, among other possibilities.
The MTA has until 2019 to coordinate efforts with the city to prepare for the impact of a shutdown.
"We have a little time," said Donna Evans, the MTA's chief of staff. "In fact, we have a lot of time."
Next month, the MTA is expected to come to Williamsburg and Greenpoint's Community Board 1 to discuss its plans, District Manager Gerald Esposito said after Thursday's meeting.
He said he'd personally prefer a three-year partial closure.
"We should lean toward a partial shutdown," Esposito said, speaking for himself not the board. "I think a full shutdown would be a disaster."