For some time now, I’ve been pushing hard for the F Express Plan. Taking a cue from Gary who originated the idea, the F Express plan has gone from a pipe dream to a proposal that enjoys the support of a few MTA board members. In fact, it even landed my name in the pages of Metro.
But along the way, we’ve hit a roadblock, and last week, the frustrations boiled over when two members of the City Council announced that they wouldn’t vote for the fare hike without the F Express Plan. They questioned the Gowanus Viaduct Rehabilitation project, the MTA’s repeated excuse that express service along the Culver Line wouldn’t be possible until 2012. None of us — not Gary, not Kensington (Brooklyn), not the councilmembers — had really received an adequate explanation. But I think that’s changed.
I’ve been in touch with Jeremy Soffin, the MTA’s deputy director of media relations, in an effort to get the bottom of the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation project and its effects on the express tracks. Here’s what Soffin said to me in an e-mail:
The Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation project requires the reconstruction of the viaduct and all four tracks on the viaduct. During the project, two of the four tracks will be taken out of service at any given time for a period of four years, precluding the implementation of any express service on this segment of the F line. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012. As part of this project, G service, which currently terminates at Smith-9 Sts, will be extended to Church Av Station.
It’s my understanding that crews will be working not only on the tracks but around and underneath them too. With the recent attention to track worker safety, the MTA isn’t, rightly so, about to start screwing around with train bottlenecks on a large viaduct. With the current F and G trains relying on just two tracks for their routes and turnarounds, the tracks simply cannot support adding more trains.
To me, it sounds like the folks along the Culver Line are in for a rough ride. The project is scheduled to take four years, and it will probably result in delays and trains crawling over the Gowanus Canal.
I’m not too happy to hear that we are probably at a temporary dead end on this plan, but I won’t give up. I have to hope that those who are in a position to be heard by the MTA can give it the old college try. Maybe something can be worked out; maybe it can’t. But now we know why the F probably can’t run express until 2012. But we certainly don’t have to like it.