United States

A Floating Pontoon Bridge Is the Latest L Train Shutdown Proposal

What to Know

  • A floating pontoon bridge is the latest independent proposal to help alleviate the headaches of the impending L train shutdown
  • The bridge's designer said it could carry two lanes of buses and two pedestrian walkways and could be constructed in eight months
  • The L train will stop running between Manhattan and Brooklyn in April 2019 for 15 months so sweeping Sandy-related repairs can be made

A floating bridge that can carry buses, cyclists and pedestrians across the East River is the latest proposal to make the impending L train shutdown more bearable for commuters.

A group calling itself the L-Ternative Bridge is pitching a four-lane floating pontoon bridge stretching from North 8th Street in Williamsburg to East 10th Street in the East Village as a solution for the crush of commuters who otherwise rely on the L train once it stops running for 15 months for a major Sandy rehabilitation project in April 2019. 

The proposal, like a cross-river Gondola and an inflatable bridge before it, hasn't been cosigned by the MTA or city officials. The MTA didn't comment on the proposal Tuesday.

But the group has started a Kickstarter campaign to "demonstrate community support and provide the city with a detailed and actionable plan" for the bridge. As of Tuesday night, the group had raised about $3,000 of its $50,000 goal.

L-Ternative Bridge said in the Kickstarter campaign that the bridge, which would mirror other pontoon bridges used across the world for hundreds of years, would only take about 8 months to assemble and would allow buses to make it across the river in about 1 minute and 30 seconds presuming they're traveling at 30 mph. 

The group didn't have a cost estimate for the bridge, which would be made out of 30 90-foot-long barges and would have two lanes for buses and two for pedestrians and cyclists. But it noted that a similarly designed pontoon bridge in Europe cost $48 million in 2008. The group said the bridge would be paid for with a $1 toll for pedestrians. 

The group has also thought of a solution for boaters: it says that it would include a 240-foot-wide drawbridge portion of the bridge would allow vessels to travel up and down the East River. 

As for official plans, the MTA plans to expand M, G, J and Z train service and plans to shut down 14th Street to cars between Third and Ninth avenues to turn it into a "busway." Added bus lanes and HOV-3 restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge are also planned along with direct ferry service from the North Williamsburg ferry stop and another yet-to-be built dock somewhere in the East 20s. 

The MTA is shutting down the Canarsie Tube under the East River in April 2019 so that repairs could be made to the Sandy-flooded tunnel and to add storm resiliency measures. The project will also improve the 1st Avenue and Bedford Avenue stations, and build a new Avenue B substation that will allows more trains to run on the L line, increasing capacity. Read more about the project at MTA.info. 

The repairs come as ridership on the L has ballooned to more than 400,000 daily riders. The line, fed by an explosion of population in Brooklyn -- and Williamsburg and Bushwick in particular -- is the 10th busiest subway line in the U.S., according to the MTA. 

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