The MTA has planned multiple alternatives to cover for reduced or nonexistent No. 7 line service on many weekends this summer and fall, but no one expects things to be easy.
“We know how important the 7 line is,” said MTA NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco at a press conference Friday in Flushing.
But he noted that without critical maintenance and upgrades, the No. 7 would certainly suffer unplanned service disruptions in the long run. “Our job is, how do we minimize the inconvenience?” Bianco said.
The MTA’s answer is free shuttle buses, extra E train service and a suggestion to use NY Waterway’s East River Ferry or the Long Island Rail Road.
These alternatives will run on weekends when No. 7 service is completely nonexistent from Times Square-42nd Street and 74th Street-Broadway, which included last weekend, when thousands came to the Pride Parade in Jackson Heights. It will also include the weekend of Sept. 20, when the MTA has also arranged for the LIRR to honor displayed MetroCards between Woodside and Penn Station.
Bianco made his comments at the Flushing offices of state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing). Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) also attended.
In addition to the full shutdowns, the No. 7 will be partially shut down this coming weekend and many others this summer and fall. During the partial shutdowns, there will be no weekend service between Times Square-42nd Street and Queensboro Plaza, and reduced service between 74th Street- Broadway and Queensboro Plaza.
“It would be very easy for politicians to hold a press conference and point the finger at the MTA,” Kim said. Instead, he thanked Stavisky and Bianco for providing advance publicity and information about the track work and outages.
Long Island City businesses have been unhappy with the plans, arguing that their businesses have been hurt in previous years by No. 7 shutdowns and will be hurt again this year by multiple weekend shutdowns.
The No. 7 work includes three projects: a signal system upgrade, track-panel replacement and work on the Steinway Tunnel that carries No. 7 trains under the East River from 42nd Street in Manhattan to 51st Avenue in Long Island City.
The signal-system work will upgrade the more-than 50-year-old system to Communications Based Train Control technology as part of a multi-year, $550 million capital improvement project.
CBTC technology is expected to allow more reliable signaling, increased capacity, countdown clocks and the capability to provide information to smartphones and other devices. The project also includes the replacement of old track panels. Cranes are required for track-panel replacement, and since most of the No. 7 line in Queens is elevated, the work must be done in daylight and coordinated with the Department of Transportation for safety.
The Steinway tunnel, which was built in 1902, was originally constructed for a trolley line and is the system’s narrowest tunnel. Because of that all train traffic in both directions must stop during work. Workers will be replacing or repairing ducts, embedded pipes and a bench wall for emergencies.