(Photo: Marcin Wichary/Flickr, via New York magazine)

(Photo: Marcin Wichary/Flickr, via New York magazine)

The MTA has confirmed that any 24/7 closure of the L-train tunnel is “unlikely to begin before January of 2019” and is promising there will be a “new dynamic” with riders and residents as the agency decides how best to repair damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012.

Ready your engines: the first of two newly announced town hall meetings will take place Thursday, May 5, 6 pm at the Marcy Avenue Armory in Williamsburg (355 Marcy Avenue). The second, Manhattan-based meeting is TBD at a later date in May. According to the MTA these meetings won’t be just another case of the agency sitting back and sending in a completely useless liaison to tell us absolutely nothing. Rather, the transport authority says it will use these public meet-n-greets to field “in-depth discussion of the potential construction approaches currently under consideration.” In a press release, MTA chief Thomas Prendergast expounded on the theme of greater transparency, pledging that these public meetings represent only the beginning of a “robust community engagement effort.” Finally.

As we saw at the February meeting convened by the L Train Coalition– a loose network of North Brooklyn residents, business owners, commuters, and people who work in the community– people are so not about the MTA’s m.o. of zero clear communication when it comes to the looming L train shutdown. So far, guesstimates for how long the L train closure could go on range from two years to seven, yep, seven years, as Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s chief of staff told the grumbling crowd at the February meeting.

During a February budget hearing, State Senator Daniel Squadron, our bearded man up in Albany land, insisted that Prendergast giddy up and start “working with coalition members and the community, that the MTA participate in a town hall” related to the impending shutdown.

Until now, the MTA has refused to go into specifics regarding damage and possible approaches to repairs. But with yesterday’s announcement, Prendergast acknowledged that “the heavy damage sustained by the Canarsie Tunnel during Superstorm Sandy requires that we undertake a full reconstruction in order to ensure the integrity of the tunnel and the safety of our riders.” The agency even went so far as to outline what exactly they mean by “heavy damage,” listing off the brutalized pieces of the tunnel that includes “tracks, signals, switches, power cables, signal cables, communication cables, lighting, cable ducts, and bench walls throughout a 7,100-foot-long flooded section of both tubes.” They also reiterated that the major construction project will result in “significant improvements” for train stations including new stairways, elevators (at the Bedford and First Avenue stops), in addition to power enhancements that will enable more trains to run during rush hour and likely allow you that one or two inches of clearance needed to live your commuting life free of rando armpits.

But don’t throw out your plague mask just yet. As Prendergast said at the budget meeting, the L-pocalypse is “years out.”

For those of you who are more concerned with one issue that not many L-train shutdown alarmists seem to be thinking about– immediate safety and the real worry of derailments– the MTA assured us in the announcement that they’re doing extra stuff and things to monitor the tunnel and make sure we’re not all going to perish in a fiery crash on our next jaunt to gobble a sushiritto in Chelsea (that seaweed “tortilla” is just so freaking crisp). The agency promised that they’re taking “several steps” to make sure the tunnel is a-OK until it can be repaired, including frequent inspections and installing backup electrical cables.

As promised, the MTA head said that these meetings will be a two-way engagement– “a collaborative process”– in which the agency will “solicit feedback from the public on the potential construction options” and gauge the myriad impact a shutdown and even service interruptions would have on area businesses and the local economy, residents, and commuters who rely on the L train to get to and from work and school. In fact, the MTA even outlined how discussion itself would proceed at the meetings, giving a seminar-like outline of the schedule which includes an “open house” so members of the public can “discuss their concerns with MTA staff,” a presentation that will include input from technical staff, and a Q+A. Of course, B+B will continue to report on the L-pocalypse as it draws nigh.