By Mark Hallum
The holidays can be a difficult time of year for many people, but its going to be a little harder for anyone traveling between Queens and Manhattan on select lines as the MTA takes advantage of low ridership times to perform overhauls.
The agency will spend Dec. 28 through Jan. 7 rebuilding all tracks and switches on the J train portion that stretches through Queens, which will overlap with repairs made to the 53rd Street tunnel servicing the E and M from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31.
“This track and switch reconstruction is critical to keeping the J line in a state of good repair because service into and out of the J’s Jamaica terminal is vital to the entire line’s reliability,” NYC Transit President Andy Byford said. “Once the work is complete, J customers will benefit from a smoother, more reliable ride for many years to come.”
The J will see full implementation of Communications-based Train Control, a digital signal system to replace the analog system still in use on the majority of subway lines.
But the J will only be operating between Broad Street and 121st Street during the rebuild period and the skip-stop for J/Z service will be suspended, the MTA said, but free shuttle buses will be provided between Jamaica-Van Wyck and 121 St.
“This intensive work in the under-river tunnel requires workers to have full access to the tracks, but it’s critical for daily reliability and for upgrading the decades-old signals to the latest modern system,” Byford said. “We thank our customers for their patience – this work will result in more reliable trips for everyone who uses the E, F, M or R lines.”
In the 53rd Street tunnel, MTA crews will be installing rails, plates, tie blocks and track ties, as well as performing preventive switch maintenance. CBTC will also be rolled out in portions on local and express tracks on the E, F, M and R between the Kew Gardens and Rockefeller Center.
The agency said the span of the tunnel work itself will take place between Queens Plaza and 50 St-8 Avenue and they expect the signal upgrade to allow them move more commuters more efficiently.
But if the CBTC rollouts on the 7 train and the L are any indication, their will be growing pains after the construction is complete.
The 7 train saw a series of meltdowns in the first week of CBTC service while the system was calibrated, according to the MTA.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall