The Times published an unnerving report today about the L train shutdown, that’s just 15 months away. The article claims that 14th Street could become “the busiest bus route in the country” and wreak havoc on Chinatown and the Lower East Side:
Seventy buses an hour will stream across the Williamsburg Bridge and pour into the neighborhoods of Chinatown and SoHo, where narrow streets will have to accommodate three new bus routes.
And the equally tight streets of the West Village will have to make room for an anticipated 5,000 bicyclists on miles of freshly laid bike path, while vehicle counts on some streets are expected to jump over 70 percent during peak rush periods.
“You can’t shut a tunnel down that was carrying hundreds of thousands of people every day, and have it be impact free,’’ said Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner. “I wish that you could. One thing we know is that New Yorkers, they can be pretty tough and resilient and make the best of things. I hope they will do everything they can in this case.”
This doesn’t sound encouraging:
The city has a goal of ensuring that buses can cross the bus corridor along 14th Street in 20 minutes, a speed rate of over 6.5 miles per hour and over 40 percent faster than buses there travel now. But some transit experts are dubious, believing that 14th Street “will saturate with buses,” said Annie Weinstock, the president of BRT International, a company that plans and designs bus rapid transit systems and that helped produce an alternate plan for 14th Street. “Buses will queue up behind one another and become a bus parking lot…”
The buses will pour onto Delancey Street, splitting into three routes, including two that will loop through SoHo. Many of the buses will funnel from the bridge onto Kenmare Street, a single-lane road, before turning at the elbow where it meets Cleveland Place. The potential bottleneck alongside a small city park is already inducing anxiety, said Sean Sweeney, the director of the SoHo Alliance, a local civic group.
Read the full article here.
Others are worried about the environmental impacts, traffic concerns, and the “delicate infrastructure of our historic low-rise area full of 180-200 year old [brownstones].” A lawsuit was filed this morning by coalition of residents and disability rights groups who are trying to block the shutdown:
On Tuesday morning, a coalition of more than two dozen Greenwich Village and Chelsea block associations, as well as two disability rights groups, announced the filing of an anticipated lawsuit to stop the repair of the L train tunnel under the East River. The lawsuit, filed by attorney Arthur Schwartz, alleges that the government failed to conduct an environmental impact statement, and that the plan doesn’t comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Villager reports.
The suit names as defendants the MTA, New York City Transit, the New York Department of Transportation, and the Federal Transportation Administration and goes on to allege that the FTA has “failed to enforce compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act” or NEPA, despite being a federally funded project.
Schwartz argues that under NEPA and consequent of the project’s federal funding, it’s legally required that A.D.A.-accessible elevators be installed at L train stations. (There’s no doubt they’re sorely needed.)
In addition to pushing for an E.I.S. and the installation of A.D.A.-accessible elevators, the lawsuit also seeks to stay funding for and any work on the tunnel during the shutdown.
The lawsuit also motions to fears that displaced car traffic from 14th Street will overwhelm lower Manhattan’s narrow historic streets. Additionally, New York Times reporter Sarah Maslin Nir tweeted that the lawsuit expresses fears that the increased flow of traffic will risk damaging the “delicate infrastructure of our historic low-rise area full of 180-200 year old” brownstones.
“I’m a big believer in planning, not just imposing,” Schwartz told Curbed in an earlier interview. “I’m not some conservative who wants things to stay the same, but I also believe that people’s communities should be respected.”
It won’t solve all our problems, but we want our East River Pontoon bridge!