The 7 Line extension — that glorious city-funded boondoggle of a subway extension — reached a milestone this past week. After a few months of drilling, the second of the project’s two tunnel boring machines broke through the southern wall of the 34th St. station cavern. The two TBMs have finished digging out a combined 2900 feet of track from 26th St. on north that will be used for storage, and Phase I is now complete. The project remains on target for its December 2013 opening.
“It’s been a half century since City government expanded its subway system, but that drought will soon be at an end,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “Too often, government falls victim to the temptation to abandon long-term infrastructure projects amidst short-term downturns, and that’s why big things never get done. The redevelopment of the Hudson Yards has been talked about for decades, but with the expansion of the number 7 line, its potential will finally be realized.”
“This week’s milestone is a clear indicator that the MTA is delivering on a major expansion project that will increase capacity within our transit system and generate economic growth in a vastly underserved area,” MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder said. “Much like our joint efforts to improve bus service throughout the city, this partnership between the city and MTA will benefit New Yorkers for generations to come.”
The press-release back-slapping by the MTA heads and various city leaders continued as you would expect. For those so inspired, read it here. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and House Rep. Jerrold Nadler all added their praise for the project. The 800-pound gorilla in the room, though, was completely ignored.
“Today’s announcement of the completion of the first phase of the Number 7 Line extension is a major milestone in the expansion of New York’s aged infrastructure,” Nadler said. “For too long we have not made the necessary investments to update our transportation network. This project, which will open the economic potential of the Far West Side, is one of many such projects we need to do to prepare New York for continued growth. I look forward to the successful completion of this project and future investments in our infrastructure.”
Left unsaid were qualms about present investment levels in our infrastructure. In a way, the 7 line extension and this moment in the sun for the project represent the perfect complement to the wall-to-wall coverage of of the MTA’s budget crisis. Here is a project in which the city has given $2.1 billion to transit, and yet it is one of the most flawed expansion projects under construction. Despite the Council’s approving a rezoning measure for the Far West Side yesterday, there has been no progress on the Hudson Yards development.
Meanwhile, the City was hesitant to cover cost overruns on the project and shelved even just a $500 million shell for a badly-needed station at 41st and 10th Ave. Why? Because real estate developers looking for handouts and bonuses to increase their land value wouldn’t have benefited nearly as much as Related, the company in charge of constructing something at Hudson Yards, will when the 7 line opens ahead of their development.
Call me a cynic, but there’s something wrong about the city’s funding priorities when it comes to mass transit. Bloomberg is happy to pay for an extension that will benefit his real estate friends, but when it comes to contributing to operating expenses and ensuring that the economic driver of the city can continue to offer adequate service levels, he and his third-term administration are nowhere to be found.
One day, the 7 line extension to nowhere will open, and one day, it might actually be an extension to somewhere. For now, though, the TBMs trundle forward with 42nd St. in their sights. Hopefully, the MTA will be able to pay for the extra operating costs this new line will incur when it opens in four years. Don’t expect the city to help out.
After the jump, some TBM pictures. Click to enlarge. The video above is courtesy of Mayor Bloomberg’s YouTube channel.
A sheer bedrock wall is all that stands between the tunnel boring machine and the 34th St. station cavern.
A worker hoses down the spot through which the TBM will enter the cavern.
In a shot reminiscent of the Sentinels from The Matrix, the TBM begins to break through the cavern wall.
The crew will now have to drag the TBM through the cavern so it can begin the more difficult route north to 42nd St. Along the way, the tunnel will pass under the 8th Avenue Subway, Amtrak/NJ TRANSIT tunnels, tunnels to the former New York Central Line, the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal and ramps. The TBM is expected to reach the current 7 line tracks by the spring.