By Bill Parry
There were no emergency town hall meeting or rallies scheduled late last week when the MTA announced the suspension of weekend service on the No. 7 subway line from Queensboro Plaza to Manhattan during all four weekends in March. There was no flurry of outrage on social media. Perhaps no one batted an eye because the end of the four-year, $774 million signal repair project is finally in sight.
“The MTA is projecting that CBTC work will be completed in 2017,” 7 Train Blues Founder Melissa Orlando said, “though we know there will be a testing and adjustment phase that follows.”
As with other service suspensions over the past four years of the project, the agency will operate free shuttle buses for Long Island City straphangers who use the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue, Hunters Point Avenue and Court Square stations, so they can reach service on the N and W lines at Queensboro Plaza.
Riders of the No. 7 have experienced ongoing service disruptions and suspensions since December 2014 as the MTA makes what it calls “critical improvements” to the signal system, as well as track bed replacement and repairs to the Steinway Tunnel under the East River after it flooded during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The MTA said the March closures are necessary to test the new communications system installed on the line called Communications-Based Train Control, which it says will increase reliability and allow for extra trains to be added to the service.
“A safe, reliable Flushing Line is critical to the growth of Queens, and these projects are critical to the future of the line,” said New York City Transit Acting President Darryl Irick. “Replacing old tracks means a smoother, faster ride for customers, and installing a modern signal system means less crowded and more reliable commutes.”
Service suspensions will be in effect from 11:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. the following Monday during each weekend in March. The schedule is subject to change in the event of inclement weather, which prevents crews from working on exposed, elevated segments of the line.
Additional suspensions are scheduled for October and November, but Orlando is optimistic the project is in the home stretch, and better communication from the MTA will minimize disruption.
“As the work winds down — hopefully — this year,” Orlando said, “we will look for the MTA to set expectations with riders through clear communication, additional information at stations, and supplemental service to ensure riders safety and ability to use the system.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr