City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) hosted a town hall meeting with representatives of the MTA last week about extensive renovation to the No. 7 line that will mean some Long Island City stops will be out of order for 11 straight weekends.
“I wanted to have this town hall so people have an opportunity to get briefed,” Van Bramer said.
At the town hall, held Jan. 11 at Sunnyside Community Services, at 43-31 39th St., the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Peter Cafiero said the agency will not run the No. 7 line between Times Square-42nd Street and Queensboro Plaza on all weekends between Saturday, Jan. 21, and Monday, April 2, to modernize the signal system.
The closures will begin at 12:01 a.m. each Saturday and end at 5 a.m. each Monday. In addition, the No. 7 section of the Court Square station will also be closed throughout that period for additional renovations on the platforms.
Demetrius Chrichlow, of the MTA, said the complete shutdown is necessary because the tunnel the No. 7 line uses to enter Manhattan, which is known as the “Steinway Tubes,” was once created for trolleys and is extremely narrow.
“You must shut down in order to perform maintenance on any type of work within the tunnel,” Chrichlow said.
Cafiero said the MTA was choosing to do the work in the winter so as to not interfere with riders going to New York Mets games, the US Open or any events in Flushing Meadows Corona Park during the warmer months.
“If we were to shut down on any of these weekends, the trains would be overwhelmed,” he said.
Lois Tendler, of the MTA, said this work also cannot be done on weeknights, like the work that began earlier this year on the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 lines in Manhattan, because there are fewer alternate transportation opportunities.
Because of the reduced service, the MTA will run double the number of N and Q trains and will also extend the Q train into Astoria for those weekends. The agency will also run a shuttle bus from Court Square to the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue station and will offer free transfers for those who take the No. 7 to the G train.
Crichlow said the No. 7 train was built in 1904 and 63 percent of the system has not been modernized. Because of the signal problems, reliability of the No. 7 train greatly decreased last year. This caused problems, as the No. 7 line is one of the busiest in New York. On a typical weekday, it serves 425,000 riders, and No. 7 trains leave Grand Central Station every two minutes.
“Any hiccup is astronomical,” he said.
Tender said updating the signals will cost $500 million. Work on the No. 7 train is scheduled into 2016.
Some residents requested that the MTA extend the shuttle buses into Manhattan, but MTA officials said it would be too expensive in the current economic client.
Van Bramer said he found the answer unsatisfying.
“I believe it’s achievable and I have put money on the table to get it done,” Van Bramer said.
Other resident requests included more accurate announcements of train arrivals at the 61st Street-Woodside station and better services for those who live at local stops which are skipped when the No. 7 line goes to express-only.