A glimpse inside the Second Ave. subway tunnel-boring machine launch box. (All photos by Patrick J. Cashin/MTA)
Over the last few years, as MTA construction crews have slowly turned Second Ave. into a battle zone, many New Yorkers have looked upon the decades-long Second Ave. Subway as a fantasy. It is the city’s Moby Dick, and even as Captain Ahab approaches his target, nothing, many argue, is going on. Buildings rumbling from the blasting, but progress, at least above-ground, can sometimes appear nearly non-existent.
This Friday, the MTA unveiled a series of photos from underground. In a few weeks, the Second Ave. subway tunnel-boring machine will be lowered into its launch box, and drilling from 92nd St. south to 63rd St. will begin. The city will be one step closer to a badly-needed subway line when that TBM begins its own trek downtown.
The photos are all available on the MTA’s facebook page, and they’re fairly stunning. Besides the one above of the starter tunnel, the authority has posted numerous glimpses inside the construction shaft, approximately 60 feet below ground. Take a peek:
Here, we can see why work above ground has been slow. The MTA had to shore up support walls in the launch box and relocate numerous unmapped utility lines that have connected the Upper East Side to the city’s water, sewer, gas and electricity systems. This is delicate and important work. Eventually, these utility tunnels will be enclosed after the MTA fills in the launch box area.
In this photo, as Ben from The Launch Box noted, the norther end of the launch box at 95th St. is visible in the distance. One day, this will be a part of the 96th St. station along the Second Ave. Subway.
As workers underground prepare for the TBM, other MTA officials are trying to prepare for a new subway system as well. Just last week, in fact, Arts for Transit put out a Call for Artists for the new areas of the 63rd St. station at Lexington Ave. that will be open to the public in 2016. The Call is available here as a PDF, and the document highlights how the MTA plans to use parts of the current station to integrate SAS service and provide a transfer to the F train.
This station originally opened in 1989, and while two platforms are accessible today to the public, two more are hiding behind temporary walls. Says Arts for Transit, “The new work related to the Second Avenue Project will involve removing the existing platform dividing walls and opening up both upper and lower platforms to create a four-track-station. To serve this enlarged station, the existing upper mezzanine on the east end (which has been left unfinished since construction) will be opened with new finishes. New station entrances will be constructed at the intersection of Third Ave and 63rd Street in Manhattan.”
As the new stations come online, Arts for Transit will leave its mark. The agency says that they will have 3000 feet of wall space in the new mezzanines, and artists may turn in their portfolios this week. Arts for Transit will select some artists later this year, and construction will start 12-18 months later.
One day, it seems, a part of the Second Ave. Subway will open, and New Yorkers will realize a dream deferred for over eight decades. Who knows if Phase II will see the light of day? Who can say if the T will eventually travel from Chatham Square to 125th St. and back? For now, though, progress continues whether we see it or not.