MTA board reviews new L-train tunnel plan

The MTA's initial plans to repair a subway tunnel under the East River called for the L subway line to be shut down for 15 months. Superstorm Sandy caused major damage to the already-aging tunnel. But a new plan presented to the MTA board on Tuesday claims that a full shutdown could be averted.

"The new plan will still address leaks in the tunnel lining and repairs," project manager Jerry Janetti said. "That part of the contract is not changing."

Among the biggest changes are the storing of electric cables inside the tunnel. Project developers said that instead of attaching them to walls with bolts, a more lightweight rack system would be used to not further damage the tunnel walls, many of which need rehabilitating.

"The frequency and depth of bolt penetration poses no risk to the tunnel lining because what we're doing is something different than was looked at before," Janetti said.

The emergency meeting came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo caught the MTA and New Yorkers off-guard two weeks ago when he announced this new alternative to the much-touted shutdown.

However, the plan was met with confusion and criticism that it was basically the same one rejected by the MTA five years earlier. That raised new concerns for transit watchdogs.

"It's a potentially very innovative new approach, we just need assurances," Transit Riders Council executive director Lisa Daglian said. "If it hasn't been done in this configuration in these tunnels in these conditions, do these riders want to go in those tunnels?"

Acting MTA Chairman Fernando Ferrer said discussing the plan in public, in front of the MTA board, is very important.

Cuomo has urged the board to review and approve the alternate plan.