Shafted: L-spooked straphangers demand details on F tunnel repairs

Shafted: L-spooked straphangers demand details on F tunnel repairs
Photo by Louise Wateridge

You’ve heard of the L-pocalypse, but what about this cluster-F?

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is quietly planning repairs to the Hurricane Sandy-ravaged 2 and 3 and F train tunnels between Brooklyn and Manhattan, in a similar vein to the much-fretted-about fix ups that will likely see the L tube close for more than a year.

But unlike the L work — for which it has held public meetings and created flashy informational videos — the authority won’t say when the repairs will happen, how long they will take, or how they will affect the lines, and now straphangers are demanding answers.

“We need to know what kind of impact this is going to have,” said Haron Naqvi, who lives in Queens and takes the F train every weekday to Downtown. “Right now, it takes an hour and a half to get here and I would have to take a bus and two trains, but that would suck.”

The 2012 super-storm sent saltwater gushing into the 2 and 3 trains’ Clark Street tunnel and the F train’s Rutgers Street tunnel, damaging tracks, signals, ducts, power, and communication cables, and now workers need extended access to fix them, according to the agency’s press guru Kevin Ortiz.

The F tunnel repairs — and how they will affect the 155,000 passengers who pass through it every day — are the most shrouded in mystery.

The agency’s head honcho Thomas Prendergast told a state legislature hearing in February that it will not require weekday closures, but Ortiz later claimed it is too soon to know anything, other than that the agency will name a contractor for the job in 2018.

At least one rider is keeping her fingers crossed that the closures will only take place on nights and weekends, so it doesn’t disrupt her daily commute.

“A shutdown would be terrible, so they should do night and weekend work,” said Neva Valaci, who lives in Fort Greene and takes the F train to the distant isle of Manhattan for work.

Repairs to the 2 and 3 tube — which 150,000 passengers traverse every weekday — will take place first and only happen on weekends, Ortiz said, though he wouldn’t say when or how that will impact the rest of the line. The authority will reveal more only after it names a contractor sometime this month, he said.

Sandy did less damage to that tube than the F tunnel, however — battering it with 500,000 gallons of saltwater, instead of the 1.5 million gallons that filled the orange line, according to Ortiz.

To put both repairs into perspective, the L train’s Canarsie tube is longer than the Clark and Rutgers tunnels and took in 6 million gallons of water during the hurricane.

The authority plans to either close the L tunnel entirely for 18 months or partially for three years. It will name a contractor by the end of the year and work will begin in 2019, Ortiz said.

The Clark, Rutgers, and Canarsie tunnels are the last of Brooklyn’s Sandy-suckered passageways still in need of mending. The authority is halfway through repairs to the 4 and 5 Joralemon tube. It has been closing the connection on weekends since March 11, and is slated to wrap up 13 weeks later on July 25.

It closed the Montague Street R tunnel for 13 straight months between 2013 and 2014, the G train’s Greenpoint tube to Queens for 12 weekends in 2014 and five full weeks in 2014, and the Cranberry Street A and C tunnel for 40 weekends last year.

Read an update to this story here.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill