Subway riders will have to endure long breaks in 24/7 service while the MTA modernizes the trains’ signal system, agency officials said Monday.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed $51.5 billion five-year capital plan includes $7.1 billion to modernize the signal systems’ creaky signals, which mostly run on decades-old technology.
Signal upgrades to six busy stretches of track — which until recently were expected to take decades to complete — will be completed in the next few years under the plan.
But bringing the subways up from the old technology — some of which dates to the 1930s — will bring pain to subway riders.
“I’ve seen this done elsewhere, specifically London,” NYC Transit President Andy Byford said of the speedy re-signaling work. “Ultimately whichever technology you adopt, you still need to give crews time to access tracks in order to install line-side equipment."
“We will need to make great use, extensive use, of weekends," the English transit chief said. "We’re not ruling out line closures.”
When Byford announced his “Fast Forward” plan to upgrade the city’s transit networks last year, he warned that night and weekend subway closures could be necessary for up to 2 1/2 years while crews completed signal work. For months, Byford has told riders at town halls: “You can’t have gain without the pain.”
“Riders are willing to tolerate some inconvenience in the short term, in part because we think it’s necessary,” said John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance. “To be honest with riders, politicians have to acknowledge that reality.”
MTA Capital Construction chief Janno Lieber, who will oversee the work, said he plans to complete the re-signaling effort by the end of 2024 — but he wouldn’t “pull a Joe Namath” and “promise” the job will be done on time.
Foye said that agency officials will engage in an aggressive public outreach campaign to get the word out about the service changes caused by signal upgrades.
“Obviously we’re going to be straight with them (the riders),” said Lieber. “It’s about how can you make sure you can provide service to the customers at the same time that you’re building a line?”
These are the six stretches of subway tracks to get new signal systems under the proposed five-year capital plan:
• The Nos. 4, 5 and 6 lines between Grand Concourse-149th St. in the Bronx and Nevins St. in Brooklyn
• The A and C lines between Jay St.-MetroTech and Euclid Ave. in Brooklyn
• The N and W lines between Ditmars Blvd. in Queens and 57th St. in Manhattan
• The eastern end of the E and F lines, from Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike in Queens to Jamaica Center
• The F line between 21st St.-Queensbridge in Queens through 57th St. in Manhattan
• The G line from Court Sq. in Queens through Hoyt-Schemerhorn in Brooklyn