MTA holds emergency public meeting on L Train project

WILLIAMSBURG, Brooklyn (WABC) -- The MTA called an emergency board meeting Tuesday to get answers about the L train renovation project that has left thousands of commuters in limbo.

On the agenda was Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to avoid a full shutdown, which was supposed to close the tunnels under the East River for more than a year.

Earlier this month, the governor made a surprise announcement that his experts figured out a way to do the repairs without a total shutdown. It was a plan that was apparently studied five years ago and rejected as impractical and ill-advised.

The MTA board would need to approve it, and several members expressed serious concerns about everything from the integrity of the subway tunnels to the health risks of the repairs.

The governor said he was determined to find another way to repair the damage to the signals, switches and circuits caused by Superstorm Sandy. The MTA's original plan was to shut the line down completely to replace the corroded cables encased in the cement ledge that runs alongside the tracks. Instead, those cables would be largely abandoned and engineers would run a new set of cables along the walls of the two tunnels, working on nights and weekends.

But a report in The New York Times revealed that the same essential plan was considered and rejected in 2014 amid concerns about cancer-causing dust and whether it could be effectively vented from the East River tunnels without exposing riders. Also, drilling into the walls was dismissed as too risky.

Officials insist the alternative plan would pose no health risks.

The board is not expected to make an immediate decision, which is not exactly good news for riders whose lives would be severely disrupted and whose hopes have been dashed and then raised and could be dashed yet again.

They did agree to hire an independent engineering consultant to review the plan and then report back to them.

The meeting was open to the public.

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