Signaling change: MTA to modernize three Brooklyn subway signal systems in massive five-year capital plan

Speeding up: The G-train is one of five lines that the Metropolitan Transportation Agency plans to add a new signaling system to as part of its massive $51 billion capital plan.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

City transit officials are sending out signals!

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will modernize decades-old signaling systems serving sections of three Brooklyn subway lines as part of a record-breaking five-year capital plan announced earlier this week.

Transit honchos committed to replacing the manual signaling system — which in some cases dates back to the 1930s — in favor of a computer-controlled system that will ensure speedier service by 2024 as part of the authority’s $51.5 billion plan — the costliest in the agency’s history, according to its chief.

“This proposed 2020-2024 Capital Program – the most ambitious capital plan in the agency’s history – builds on the success of the Subway Action Plan, and with new tools such as Design-Build and the reorganization that is underway we’re certain we can deliver for our customers,” said the agency’s chairman and chief executive officer Patrick Foye. “This plan expands service, increases reliability, speeds up the system, and delivers the world’s largest ever investment in accessibility, for both NYC Transit and the MTA’s commuter railroads, and at the end of this five-year period, New Yorkers will see a revitalized and modern system for the 21st century and beyond.”

The plan will set aside $40 billion for the agency’s Five Borough transit arm and $7.1 billion specifically to upgrade the signaling system of six subway lines across the city, including the following five trains going along three Kings County lines:

• The A and C lines between Jay Street-MetroTech in Downtown Brooklyn and Euclid Avenue in East New York.

• The G train between Hoyt-Schermerhorn in Downtown Brooklyn to Court Square in Queens.

• The 4 and 5 lines between from the Bronx, down through Manhattan and to Nevins Street on the border of Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene.

The agency has so far installed that new system on the L train and the Queens-Manhattan 7-train.

To support the new system, transit workers plan to build new power substations and contact rail, and the signaling upgrade work will reportedly necessitate closures, according to the chief of the agency’s New York City operation.

“We will need to make great use, extensive use, of weekends,” Andy Byford told the New York Daily News. “We’re not ruling out line closures.”

The agency will borrow half of the money for the plan — some $25 billion — through bonds, which it plans to pay off with revenues from the state’s planned congestion pricing and its recently-enacted legislature to collect a so-called mansion tax, in addition to the expected windfall from closing a sales tax loophole for online retail platforms like Amazon.

The plan also relies on $10.7 billion from Uncle Sam along with $3 billion each from the city and state, along with almost $10 billion of the agency’s own bonds.

In addition to the signal modernization, the agency will also make 66 new subway stations accessible for people with disabilities and fast-track four current accessibility upgrades by the end of this year, but the agency’s spokespeople could not specify which stations would be affected in Brooklyn.

Transit officials will also build new approaches to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and widen two miles of the eastbound Belt Parkway.

For the entire city transit system, the Authority seeks to buy 1,900 subway cars and 2,400 new buses, replacing 2,200 of its oldest buses and growing its fleet by 175.

Some 500 of those buses will be electric and the agency wants to spend $1.1 billion to modify its bus depots for electric bus operations.

The plan still needs approval by the agency’s board, which is likely to vote on it at its next general board meeting on Sept. 25, before submitting it for review by a board of representatives of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s offices, along with reps from both state legislative chambers on Oct. 1, who have another 90 days to approve it.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.

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