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EXCLUSIVE: Local lawmaker calls on MTA to delay start of M train repairs until emergency DOT project is complete

QNS/Photo by Anthony Giudice

The traffic nightmare of next year’s repairs to the M train could be even worse.

As the MTA begins preparations for Phase 1 of the project that will close the entire line for two whole months, they may run into some problems with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) emergency replacement of the severely damaged deck of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge on the Ridgewood/Middle Village border.

Earlier this month, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley wrote a letter to MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, outlining her concern over the timing of the MTA’s project in conjunction with the DOT’s plan to fix the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge.

The first phase of the MTA’s plan for the M train, which will demolish and replace a bridge over freight rail tracks between the Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue stations, is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2017. This will effectively shut down M train service between Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue-Broadway for approximately two months.

In order to keep commuters moving during the repairs, the MTA plans to run free shuttle buses, making stops at each of the affected stations: Metropolitan Avenue, Fresh Pond Road, Forest Avenue, Seneca Avenue, Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues, Knickerbocker Avenue, Central Avenue and Myrtle Avenue-Broadway.

This is where problems may occur.

The DOT is scheduled to begin their emergency project on the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge in the coming weeks, with an expected end date by the fall of 2017, well into the start of the M train repairs. This means shuttle buses would be running over the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge while construction is going on, potentially exacerbating what’s already expected to be a difficult commute for many.

“The replacement [of the bridge deck] is estimated to take 16-18 months, ending in the fall of 2017 and possibly extending into the winter of 2018,” Crowley wrote about the DOT’s project. “As a result of this construction, Metropolitan Avenue will be limited to one lane of traffic in each direction and such lane closures will create significant traffic congestion throughout Middle Village and Ridgewood.”

Crowley has requested that the MTA delay the start of Phase 1, or at least begin with Phase 2 of their plan, until the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge deck is completely replaced and traffic patterns return to normal.

“So that becomes the big issue: [is DOT] going to be done by the time July 1, 2017, comes and the M train project would begin?” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5.

The MTA is confident that both projects will begin and end on time, creating minimal overlap.

“We will work collaboratively with DOT in order to minimize the impact of both projects to area residents,” an MTA representative said. “However, keep in mind that our work is slated to start in the summer of 2017 while the DOT project is slated for completion in the summer of 2017 so there will not be much overlap between the two projects.”

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