Welcome to the L Project Weekly Halftime Extravaganza! Sorry, we don’t have Beyoncé or Springsteen. But we did we have our team tour the finished L tube with the Governor, confirming that we are halfway through our L tunnel repairs. On budget, ahead of schedule. That’s worth applauding!

So this week, we’ll talk about this halfway milestone, what we’ve got done, and why you valued L riders can now expect better service…sooner than we thought.

Also: new details on service changes in October and November, how many miles of cable we installed, and which upcoming holiday will have normal L service? Read on to find out, and have a great weekend.
Got this from a friend? Subscribe to L Project updates
Catch up on past newsletters
New cables, discharge pipe, tracks, tunnel wall and more: Behold the completed Manhattan-bound tube.

Photo: Trent Reeves / MTA Capital Construction / September 21, 2019

Been There, Done That: One Tube Done, One Tube to Go

Last Sunday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo made it official. We’re halfway through our L tunnel repairs, beating the schedule by three months! The Manhattan-bound tube is done. Now we’re swiveling our super-efficient renovation operation around and heading down the Brooklyn-bound tube. 
How did we get here? Why are we ahead of schedule? It’s definitely not luck. If you reread all of our LPW interviews (okay, not even we do that) you see one constant. Everyone we talked to says this was a new sort of MTA project. A new way of doing things. How so? How was it new? We collected all of your questions on the topic and turned it into a mini FAQ.  
Reader: So, the L tunnel rehab is really ahead of schedule? That means back to normal service sooner than planned?
L Project Weekly: Yes…and no. To sum up, we finished the Manhattan-bound tube in about 5 months. This means the whole tunnel rehabilitation is tracking to finish about three months earlier than even our most aggressive timeline of 15 months. We’re very happy about that. We’re now using the same new techniques to finish the Brooklyn-bound tube. If all goes well, we should have your critical Brooklyn-Manhattan link up and running sooner than planned. (Remember, there are other parts of the L Project besides the tunnel that are ongoing, like the new elevators, Union Square escalator and three new substations.) But no, we are not going back to normal service. The work we’ve done means a smoother ride, better service. And when the substations are done, more service. We’re not going back, we’re moving forward!
Reader: At Sunday’s press conference, the Governor called the L tunnel rehab “what happens when you abandon the old way of doing things and think outside the box.” What’s he referring to?
LPW: We don’t speak for the Governor. But let’s remember. The original plan called for a 15-month full shutdown of the L between 8 Av and Bedford Av. It also scheduled demolition and replacement of the entire tunnel duct wall. Instead, we tapped some of the nation’s top brains at the Cornell and Columbia engineering schools. We huddled with our project planners and train operators. By using some “outside the box” techniques, we kept your L trains running on regular weekday schedules. We shortened the work schedule. We made the tunnel even more resilient. And now, as the Governor announced, we even beat that shorter schedule to the halfway mark by three months.
Reader: What were these new techniques again? It seems like we’ve been reading about a lot of new techniques.
LPW: You’re right. We’ve reported a lot of new stuff. But there were two big innovations that made this continued service and rapid progress possible. Racks and panels! First, we hung all the tunnel cabling on an external racking system above flood levels instead of embedding them behind the duct wall. That’s faster, cheaper, and it makes cables easier to check and maintain. Second, we
used panels made of fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) to form a new wall around the old one, instead of rebuilding the existing duct walls. For transit engineering in the United States, both of those techniques are new when applied to an existing transportation infrastructure.

Reader: Someone at the press conference talked about using these new methods to “revolutionize” the way the MTA does all its projects. What does that mean? You’ll use racks and panels for everything?
LPW: Hmm, tough crowd here. Actually, that was Janno Lieber, who’s our chief development officer and heads up our MTA Capital Construction unit. They’re an all-star team of engineers, architects, and planners who oversee our big construction projects and megaprojects. Some of the biggest projects in the world, in fact.
Reader: MTA Capital Construction is coordinating all the project teams on the L tunnel?
LPW: That’s right. And, as Janno noted, that’s something new as well. Historically, an operating agency like NYC Transit would manage all its own construction projects, big or small. But industry changes have opened up new opportunities. Things like design-build contracts, imaging software, digitized workflows, wireless field communication—it all adds up to big efficiencies. It makes sense now to have a dedicated team, like an in-house firm, coordinating all the construction elements. They can see the big picture, in terms of scheduling, while coordinating lots of project crews at a detailed level. It’s not something customers can see, like a new engineering technique, but it’s equally important.
Reader: This is the first time you’ve done this technique?
LPW: Not at all. We’ve always managed multiple contractors and work crews, of course. What’s new is for MTA Capital Construction to coordinate all the specialized construction contractors on a big subway repair job like this, while interfacing with ongoing subway operations. That’s what Janno was referring to. For us, the L tunnel job has been a model or pilot—a full-scale run-through for this way of doing things. Now that we’re halfway through we can say, yes (fist pump!), this is really working. This is the way to go.  
Reader: All I really want is the L tunnel finished. And better L train service, faster repair projects, a super safe subway system, more flood-resistant infrastructure, and more cost-efficiency. Is that too much to ask? 
LPW: No, it’s not. That’s exactly what we’re aiming to do. You summed it up nicely, reader!
Reader: One thing I still don’t understand. You said the new rack system holds the “tunnel cables.” What kind of cables are those?
LPW: Oh wow, cables! Tunnel cabling is a whole story unto itself. We’ll discuss that in a future “The Cable Guy” issue, not starring Jim Carrey. In the meantime, here’s the trailer...

The Cable Guy—Starring Real-Life L Tunnel Experts

We did a lot of work in the first tube. If you read the weekly construction look-ahead, you probably were wondering, "how much cable can they possibly be installing?!" So we counted them up. Tube 1 cables, by the numbers:
💬 Two types of communication cables—7,110 ft. each
📡 Antennae cables—7,110 ft. on one wall, 7,960 ft. on the other
🔋 Five types of pump feeder, power and control cables—2,000 ft. each
🌐 Fiber-optic cable—7,110 ft.
🚦 Signal cables—28,000 ft.
💡 Tunnel lighting and conduit cables—15,930 ft.
📞 Phone wires, sound, power cables—7,000 ft.
🔋 Receptacle power—7,965 ft.
Okay, that’s one subway tube, 13 types of cable, and over 25 miles of cabling. Which unspools to about 108 Empire State Buildings laid down horizontally end to end. More on cabling in an upcoming issue.

New schedule details: Union Square bypasses, 14th-St/6 Av accessibility work, Halloween

Remember when we announced that our Union Square escalator and 14 St-6 Av accessibility initiative were starting, but we didn't have all of the dates? The time has come!

But before we get to that, a brief reminder that not all service changes mean less service. Exhibit A: we're running normal L service on Halloween! It's a busy night in the city, especially near the L—that annual Village Halloween Parade ends right by the train. 

Check out our service info page on the L Project site for the full details; but here are the highlights:
  • Four scheduled one-night bypasses at Union Square
  • Several weeks of no weeknight or weekend service at 14 St-6 Av or 8 Av Stations for the accessibility project at 14 St-6 Av
  • Normal service on Halloween!
Plan a trip with alternative service

Halftime feature: How do you find the halfway point on subway platforms?

Ever noticed this black and white board? Whenever a train rolls into the station, the conductor opens the window and points upward. What does it mean? It’s an old Japanese custom. Not joking! Here’s the deal.

When a train pulls into the station, it’s critical for safety that it align perfectly with the platform before the conductor opens the doors. But with only one conductor in the center of the train, how can they be certain? 
Well, right above the center of the platform there’s a black and white striped sign or “zebra board.” When conductors stop right at the zebra board, they know the train is aligned. As a double check they lower the window and point to the board. It’s also a way our conductors keep themselves alert and oriented during their workday. Good idea!
How did it come about? Word has it that back in the 1990s an MTA official was visiting Japan and noticed this safety practice in the Tokyo subway system, where it’s called shisa kanko or “see, point, call.” He brought the practice home, and it’s been shisa kanko ever since.
Hot tip: Want to find a conductor to ask a question? Find the zebra board and wait!

Glamour shot of the week: The L's new competitor in Manhattan

This was a big week for the L. But also for its above-ground Manhattan alternative, the M14 SBS—WHICH NOW HAS ITS OWN LANE. Thanks to the hard work by our partners at NYC Department of Transportation, NYPD and our bus team, we've already seen reports that the buses are on target with the projected 25% cut in travel time.

Have you tried the M14 SBS since Thursday? Especially on nights and weekends, use it instead of the L, if you're traveling in Manhattan. It's definitely a more reliable option. But don't take our word for it. Check out what your fellow MTA customers had to say

Photo: Marc. A. Hermann  / MTA NYC Transit / October 4, 2019

Construction look-ahead: Week of 10/5/19

Someone asked if we were just going to copy and paste from the first tube's work rundowns. Great thinking, except for the fact that we are making improvements to our work plan, based on what we learned in the first go-round. For example: we're flipping the order of new discharge pipes and FRP panel installation (now, FRP panels then discharge pipes) as our crews will be able to work more efficiently.

Here's what we're doing in the week ahead:
  • Set up work containment areas prior to demolition
  • Start demolition on track wall tile and ductwall
  • Start installing cable racking system
  • Start conduit work: Emergency lighting fixtures, tunnel lighting system and wayside signal cable conduits
  • Install riser box and wire
  • Install new electrical panels at the pump room
  • Install feeder cables in the mezzanine areas of Bedford Av Station
  • Swap plates and ties, and remove and install contact rail parts in two locations on the Brooklyn side

Stay connected

Learn more
Copyright © 2019 Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York City Transit, All rights reserved.

You are receiving this because you opted in via our website, survey or a public meeting.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.