The two-track station at 72nd St. will be significantly narrower than the originally-planned three-track stop. (Source: MTA Capital Construction)
When I started Second Ave. Sagas in November of 2006, I had planned to focus on the Second Ave. Subway and its progress. But the day-to-day construction of a new subway line doesn’t make for compelling blogging on a daily basis, and the MTA just has so much to offer. So Second Ave. Sagas has evolved to become a site about the MTA, its subways and public transportation in and around New York in general.
Today, though, we’re going to revisit those Second Ave. Subway roots. As the MTA struggles to meet budget projections by deferring planned capital improvements and cutting various services, the Second Ave. Subway is facing the same fiscal problems. Already over budget and behind schedule, the Second Ave. Subway is now facing the dreaded project modification axe as well.
In a presentation last week to Community Board 8 (available here as a PDF), the MTA announced plans to scale back the planned station stop at 72nd St. from three tracks to two. According to MTA documents, these cuts are a product of — what else? — rising costs. By eliminating one of the tracks, the MTA will reduce construction expenditures by lessening the amount of material excavated, the number of truck trips needed for the job, the amount of material needed for the station and the number of and dollar amount of the deep subsurface easements in the area around 72nd St. Yes, there will be a quiz.
Now, as critics of the current Second Ave. Subway plan have often noted, this new subway line is sorely lacking in express service, and while monetary concerts preclude a four-track system — something we’re bound to regret in, oh, twenty years or so — the third track at 72nd St. would have made orchestrating the Q’s merge from the Broadway line onto the T’s Second Ave. line easier. As the original environmental impact statement said in 2004:
[The 72nd St. station] would accommodate a three-track station and the transition to the existing Broadway Line, which would allow for a smooth merge between the two services (Second Avenue and Broadway) and permit turning back some Broadway services under special operating conditions, such as the closure of the Manhattan Bridge tracks, which result in additional trains on the Broadway Line.
Over on Subchat, the debate over the fate of this track extends through many messages with some folks believing that it was a luxury that could go with money tight and others believing that we’ll come to miss it. I believe that the lack of a third track may, at times, hold up merges from Broadway onto the Second Ave. line. It will cause passengers transferring from a T to a Q at 72nd St. to wait for the next train instead of finding one waiting across the platform, but that’s getting way too far ahead of ourselves as the sections south of 72nd St. on Second Ave. are simply plans on paper with no funding behind them right now.
In the end, many people will see this move as a precursor to the eventual collapse of this project yet again. I don’t see that happening though. The MTA, the city, the state and the feds have spent too much money on this version of the Second Ave. Subway for it to fall apart again. We may only get three stops for now; we may get more. But sometime around 2015 subways will run up Second Ave. The city needs it too much.