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Second Avenue Subway: Drilling starts at last


When it comes to New York City lore, the Second Avenue Subway sounds a little bit like alligators in the sewer.

Get it? See, the subterranean urban reptiles are just a myth. And so, it may have seemed, was the east side subway line.

Until now.

A few days ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority launched a tunnel-boring machine that will dig the way for the two tracks to be set down starting the first phase of the line that eventually is expected to run from 125th Street to Hanover Square in the Financial District.

Great news for New Yorkers, but what about for those of us up here in the northern suburbs? Well, the line is expected to ease crowding — intense crowding at that — on the Lexington Avenue line. So if you take Metro-North to Grand Central, then take the 4, 5 or 6 train to Union Square, Chinatown or anywhere else, presumably, you’ll be less cramped on the train once the Second Avenue Line is running.

But you may not see that benefit for a while. The first phase runs from 105th Street and Second Avenue to 63rd Street and Third Avenue. That phase is on schedule to be completed by December, 2016, the MTA says.

Anyway, the tunnel-boring machine itself sounds like a mythological beast: 450 feet long, weighing 485 tons, it will eat through 50 feet of Manhattan bedrock a day. It’s expected to make two runs from 92nd Street to 63rd Street by November, 2011.

It’s not the first time work began on the project. It started in the 1970s, but was never finished, perhaps adding to the feeling that it would never be done.

The current MTA chief, Jay Walder, has been adamant about keeping capital projects going. So we’ll see where this takes us.

Meanwhile, here’s the MTA press release on the milestone:

MTA Launches Second Avenue Subway Tunnel Boring Machine
Machine Will Dig First Phase of Second Avenue Subway

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), elected officials, and contractor S3 Tunnel Constructors today launched the tunnel boring machine that will dig the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway. The 485-ton, 450-foot-long machine will dig through approximately 50 feet of Manhattan bedrock per day as it completes two runs from 92nd Street to 63rd Street by November 2011. The event marks a significant milestone in Phase 1 of the MTA’s Second Avenue Subway construction project, which is on schedule to be completed by December 2016.

The Second Avenue Subway Phase 1 will serve more than 200,000 people per day, reducing overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue Line and restoring a transit link to a neighborhood that lost the Second Avenue Elevated in 1940.

“There have been skeptics who saw construction start and stop in the 1970s and said the Second Avenue Subway would never be built,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder. “But today, we are turning on the machine that will dig the Phase 1 Second Avenue Subway tunnels, and we won’t turn it off until the tunnels are done. This powerful machine is a tangible reminder of the important role that today’s MTA capital program will play for generations of New Yorkers to come.”

“Anyone riding the Lexington Avenue Line today, whether for work commute or pleasure, understands the critical importance of constructing the Second Avenue Subway,” said Thomas F. Prendergast, President of MTA New York City Transit. “When completed, it will provide the capacity needed to sustain the East Side’s vitality and future growth.”

“Building the Second Avenue Subway is a remarkable undertaking that has had its share of challenges, both past and present,” said Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction. “Thanks to the commitment of our funding partners and the Upper East Side community, we continue to make significant progress towards delivering a new state-of-the-art subway for New York City.”

“This is an historic day for all New York straphangers,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “The Second Avenue Subway will meet commuter needs that have existed for far too long here in New York, improve transportation options for millions of New Yorkers and spur economic growth in the process. I am proud to have worked on this project for so many years and am thrilled to see that the process of improving our public transit is underway.”

“I am delighted that this long-awaited and crucially important project is moving forward,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “The Second Avenue subway, for which I have been a leading advocate for decades, will improve the lives of so many New Yorkers, particularly East Side residents, who have endured overcrowded commutes and limited access to the subway for far too long. I commend the MTA for the progress it is making and I look forward to the day when the residents of my district, on the Lower East Side, can enjoy the city’s newest subway.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said: “Today marks a whole new phase for the Second Avenue Subway project. Every day, the tunnel boring machine will be moving the new subway dozens of yards closer to the finish line. That’s real progress and it means that it’s no longer a matter of ‘if’ the Second Avenue Subway will get done – it’s now a matter of ‘when.’ With this new tunnel boring machine and the dedication of our community, the construction workers and the MTA to the project, the Second Avenue Subway will soon be moving down the tracks.”

“The Second Avenue Subway is going to transform transportation on the East Side,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin. “Today we are taking an exciting step closer to easing overcrowding on the Lexington line and making commutes a little easier for all East Siders.”

“This is what progress looks like – it’s 450 feet long, has a 200-ton cutter head, and it’s moving us closer to transit relief on the East Side,” said City Council Member Dan Garodnick. “It can be difficult to appreciate the enormity of this project and how construction is progressing, but there can be no doubt today that we are moving forward. Thousands of riders, residents and merchants are now hoping that this project continues to move forward swiftly and safely.”

The Second Avenue Subway is one of four large-scale projects being built as the MTA undertakes the largest expansion of New York’s public transportation system in two generations. The MTA is also connecting the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal, extending the 7 subway line to the far west side, and building the Fulton Street Transit Center in Lower Manhattan.

Under Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway project, new stations being built at 96th Street, 86th Street, and 72nd Street will be served by the Q train, as will an expanded station at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue. Further phases of the project will extend the line from 125th Street in Harlem to Hanover Square in the Financial District. The configuration of the tracks will allow for possible future extensions into Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 at 12:13 pm by Ken Valenti. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Jay Walder, Metro-North, MTA, subways


About this blog
Going Places is your online source for shortcuts and news on the ins and outs of getting around the Lower Hudson Valley. We'll help you deal with traffic tie-ups, bad drivers and the high cost of commuting.

Going Places is written by transportation writers Khurram Saeed and Ken Valenti. Khurram's transportation column, "Getting There," runs Wednesdays in Rockland. Ken's column, "Going Places," runs Mondays in Westchester and Putnam. Join in the conversation and share tips on coping with fellow commuters.


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Khurram SaeedKhurram SaeedKhurram Saeed has been reporting for The Journal News since 2000. He writes about transportation issues in Rockland and has a weekly column called Getting There, which appears Wednesdays. READ MORE

Ken Valenti Ken Valenti Ken Valenti covers trains, planes and automobiles - not to mention buses and ferries - for Westchester and Putnam. He's been a reporter with The Journal News and its forerunners more than 20 years and has covered all four corners of Westchester County. READ MORE

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