Home 7 Line Extension Is the 7 line extension on time and on budget?

Is the 7 line extension on time and on budget?

by Benjamin Kabak

By eliminating the station at 41st St. and 10th Ave., the city ensured that the 7 line extension would come in at budget.

With the Mayor’s proposed subway to Secaucus garnering headlines, the 7 line extension is back in the news again. This $2.1-billion capital plan, whose construction is funded entirely by the city but whose rolling stock is not, has progressed largely under the radar as it heads toward its late 2013 completion. Sure, the city and MTA never came to terms on a station at 10th Ave. and 41st St., but at least it’s moving forward trouble-free.

That, at least, is the narrative Eliot Brown at Capital New York puts forward in a piece that explores how the 7 train is winning. Unlike the Fulton St. transit hub debacle and long-aborning Second Ave. Subway, the 7 line extension is ostensibly on time and on budget. This potential “bargain-basement gateway to Secaucus,” as Brown calls it, has emerged as the city’s model in subway construction. He writes:

Whatever happens to the long-shot bid for the new Hudson River connector, the No. 7 extension is still within its $2.1 billion original budget and its physical progress is going swimmingly, in the context an industry where cost overruns routinely go into the billions. It also stands in stark contrast with another historic transportation project, and he only other subway extension to be undertaken by the city in the past half-century: the Second Avenue Subway.

The Second Avenue project has not gone as planned. Since ground broke in April 2007, its completion date has been pushed off repeatedly (an average of a year each year), back from 2013 to 2016 (and counting), with the budget growing from $3.8 billion to at least $4.4 billion…

The No. 7’s easy ride can be attributed to a variety of factors, one of which certainly is luck—the tunneling simply went faster than expected—and another of which is the benefit of doing a project in what is effectively the Wild West. The area is filled with low-rise warehouses and garages, not residential skyscrapers filled with vocal residents and merchants who deplore the proliferation of rats and other noxious side effects of construction. There is less of a jumble of infrastructure underground to contend with, and, with only one station, there are fewer surprises than on the three-stop Second Ave line.

But is this fawning over subway construction true? Because the 7 line is going to open what Brown terms the Wild West of Manhattan, it has escaped the same level of scrutiny to which news organizations and politicians have subjected the Second Ave. Subway. Little outrage has emerged over plans to cancel the station at 10th Ave. and 41st St. — a station that would have brought badly-needed subway service to the rapidly growing and currently underserved Hells Kitchen area. That alone is why the 7 line extension, originally budgeted for $1.9 billion, doesn’t cost $3 billion, and not fiscal control by the Bloomberg Administration, as Capital New York alleges.

In a report issued in late 2009, the Citizens Budget Commission laid bare the truth about MTA capital projects. The 7 line extension, noted the report, was first due to open in summer 2012 to coincide with the Olympics. Delays in the design phase have since pushed the revenue-service opening date back to June 2013, and the entire project won’t be completed until November 2014.

Perhaps I’m just arguing a technicality. Perhaps Brown is right to highlight the 7 line extension because it’s more of a model for future subway expansion than the delay-rife Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway. Perhaps progress is indeed “going swimmingly.” But I see a project in which the costs were controlled by scaling back the scope by half, and the timeline, while not suffering recent delays, is still a year or two off its original pace. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the theater?

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9 comments

Alon Levy November 24, 2010 - 5:25 pm

If the city needed to drop the provisions for a station shell in Hell’s Kitchen, then the project isn’t really on-budget; it was massively scaled back. The SAS equivalent would be shortening the starter line from 96th to 86th Street.

Because of the lack of stations and the lower population on the Far West Side, the 7 is slightly cheaper, yes, but even then it’s nose-bleedingly expensive. It costs 5 times as much as deep-level subways passing under entire urban subway networks in Europe, rather than 7 times as much.

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Marc Shepherd November 24, 2010 - 6:01 pm

I agree with you. When they drop one-half of the number of stations originally planned, that’s not “on-time, under-budget” performance. That’s pitching features out the window, in order to make an arbitrary number.

You’re also right that the project was supposed to be in service for the 2012 Olympics.

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Clarke November 28, 2010 - 1:34 am

Well I’m sure if NYC had won the bid for the 2012 Olympics, there would be more of a rush to get the 7 extension completed by then (and would probably have had cash thrown at it from all sides).. However, with no such goal, there is no reason that a summer 2012 date needed to be reached, and thus work could continue at the pace it has. Should be interesting to see the future of the 7 line extension….

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Westsider November 28, 2010 - 8:22 am

Congratulations, you’re now on par with the rest of the press who should have looked at this five years ago. Elliot Brown is typical of the lazy corporate press. Why should he be your source?

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Benjamin Kabak November 28, 2010 - 11:56 am

What’s your point here? I’ve been following this story since 2007 when I noted then that it wasn’t on time or budget. I’ve been the most vocal of any media member covering this story on that point, and this post is to highlight how Brown is wrong. He’s not a “source.” Rather, I’m correcting his erroneous reporting.

But hey, why bother looking into my stance when you can just be anonymously snarky instead?

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Ted K. November 29, 2010 - 4:07 am

FYI – Take a look at the “CATEGORIES” sidebar for “7 Line Extension”. Fifty-two (52) entries as of 29 Nov. 2010. I scrolled thru the entries and hit 29 Nov.’06 as I reached the first. My compliments, Mr. Kabak.

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Solving the MTA’s construction costs problem :: Second Ave. Sagas December 23, 2010 - 1:03 am

[…] projects, only the 7 line is on time and on budget. As I wrote just a few weeks ago, that’s simply not true. The line is a year behind schedule, and the only reason it’s ostensibly on budget is because […]

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Barrett May 9, 2012 - 6:46 pm

It is pure politics to build an extension of the 7 line to the Hudson Rail Yards but cancel the stop in Hell’s Kitchen. There is NOTHING at the Hudson Rail Yards! Nor will anything be there when the line is completed. It is nothing short of a payoff to Related Developers who own the property. To cancel plans for a stop in Hell’s Kitchen, where at least 3 sixty story and 5 forty-five plus story skyscrapers have been built in the last 5 years, is ludicrous. It will be bypassing the fastest growing area in the city. To say that a station may be added sometime in the future when the city can afford it is an insult to intelligence. If there are budgetary constraints the 10th Ave. Station should be completed FIRST and the Hudson Rail Yards Station “at some later date”.

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MTA promises to open 7 line extension by September 13 :: Second Ave. Sagas July 20, 2015 - 11:11 pm

[…] mid-2010 as work continued on the project, the MTA’s deadline had already slipped to June of 2013, but that was a short-lived target. By early 2012, MTA Capital Construction President Michael […]

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