SOHO — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority "has actually done a good job" with handling the planned 18-month shutdown of the L train so far, said the city's Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who's also an MTA board member.
Her boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, has disagreed — publicly questioning whether the agency really needs 18 months to repair the Hurricane Sandy-damaged Canarsie tunnel between 14th Street in Manhattan to Williamsburg.
Pressed by reporters at an unrelated press conference to pick a side — the MTA or her boss — Trottenberg insisted, "I don't fall on either side of the debate."
"My job actually is, however this turns out — obviously from the city DOT point-of-view, to be as helpful as we can," she said. "We do need to get a good sense from the MTA about what is the volume of buses they're going to be able to run, and how we might work together on a good operational plan."
"I think the MTA has actually done a good job of talking to us about their plans," she said, quickly adding that "The mayor's message is also a fair one."
She said the mayor "wants to make sure on behalf of the residents of Williamsburg and the businesses, and all of the folks who are going to be inconvenienced on the 14th Street side as well, [to] keep the pressure on to make sure that we get this project done as well as possible."
Trottenberg said the DOT will need to do "a very detailed traffic analysis" and "obviously work with local communities, local merchants."
"We’re getting that started and looking forward to seeing what we can do. We recognize we're going to have to carry a big volume of people on 14th Street. We’re going to have to work diligently to come up with a good plan," Trottenberg said.
"We’re sensitive to what we have heard already, I think, from community boards and elected officials in that area — which is we want to design a traffic plan which is going to speed buses on 14th Street but hopefully not have tremendous negative spillover affects on neighboring streets."
Pressed on whether she thinks 18 months is an appropriate timeline, Trottenberg refused to say.
"I think right now from what the MTA says that’s what they’re estimating, but I think from the mayor’s point of view he wants to make sure we’re keeping a good eye on that, and we’re being diligent about obviously keeping the timeframe as short as we can, knowing that — look, it’s going to be a tremendous inconvenience particularly for folks in Williamsburg but also for folks in Manhattan," she said.
"In the end, there’s not two sides. In the end, it’s the traveling public," she added. "The MTA and DOT are going to have to work together to do everything we can to minimize their inconvenience and minimize potential downsides for local merchants as well."
MTA spokeswoman Beth de Falco said the agency has been "talking constantly with NYCDOT about ways to minimize impacts by adding service during the closure, as Commissioner Trottenberg mentioned."
"Much of the remainder of the service plan will have to be worked out jointly between MTA and the City," de Falco said. "For instance, we are completing a traffic study for DOT and are sharing our estimates on additional buses with them. Ultimately, however, the City will have to make decisions regarding what to do with that information in terms of how to allocate space on city streets and bridges."