Archive: How the Olympics ruined the 7 line extensionBy
On Saturday afternoon, I walked the High Line, and as I stood at the fence at the northern end of the park’s reach, I pondered the Hudson Yards area. Had Mayor Bloomberg secured the 2012 Olympics, that expanse of future development would have been bustling with activity as crews would have been hard at work finishing up the stadium that would have played host to the Summer Games. Instead, we’re waiting on the future of the Javits Center, eventual mixed use development above the rail yards and a one-stop extension of the 7 line that won’t open until early 2014.
In London, the city is trying to finish various infrastructure improvements and Olympics-related construction projects. The city has spent $10 billion on transportation improvements, but they are still urging commuters to change their travel patterns during the games. The Olympics crowds across the pond will make the East Side IRT at 6 p.m. seem downright empty.
As London’s expenses for the games spiral well above budge, I wanted to revisit and revise an old post on the 7 line extension and how the failed Olympics bid changed the project. What would have happened, I asked, had the city secured the Olympics. Let’s find out.
The 7 line project — one now destined to serve residents of a real estate complex not yet built or even paid for — got its start in Bloomberg’s desires to see the Olympics come to New York. It was that same desire and the subsequent loss of the games to London that has led to the downfall of the station at 41st and 10th Ave.
We know the project’s recently history fairly well. The project’s design phase started in 2002 when Bloomberg launched his plan to develop Manhattan’s last great frontier, the Hudson Yards land. At the time, the Mayor hoped to lure the Jets from New Jersey with a stadium that would also serve as the home for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In June 2005, amidst massive public protest, the state legislature failed to guarantee financing for the stadium, and a few months later, the IOC, citing that failure, awarded the Olympics to London.
Still, the 7 line extension did not die with the Olympics. Originally, the project’s timetable was an aggressive one. Project Design Completion was due to be wrapped up by December 2006 with construction beginning that year and revenue service in time for the Olympics in 2012. Today, the MTA still lists TBD as the Project Design Completion date. Construction started on December 15, 2007, over a year later than originally anticipated, and revenue service is right now scheduled to start during December of 2013. The MTA will miss those Summer Olympics by a good 17 months.
Over the course of project’s history, the City and MTA have fought over nearly every aspect of it. The City, the primary funding partner for this extension, refused to fund cost overruns and an expensive station stop at 41st and 10th Ave. The MTA has had trouble securing a deal for the land rights to the Hudson Yards area, and the current $1 billion offer from Related is on borrowed time, already one month past the anticipated closing date.
What though would have happened if the Olympics had come to New York? For that, we hit the maps. Take a look at the map below. It is an excerpt from a special map the MTA printed in 2005 showing the potential locations for all of the Olympics events. (To view the map in full, click here.)
Any Olympics plan for the city included heavy usage of the Far West Side. The Javits Center would have hosted six key events, including weightlifting, fencing, wrestling and table tennis, and the planned West Side stadium would have featured some track-and-field contests and the soccer matches. To ensure capacity for those events, the city would have needed a subway stop at 34th St. and 11th Ave. and probably would have paid to build the one at 41st and 10th as well. Instead, the costs skyrocketed, and we’re left with REBNY’s protests, years too late.
Today, progress along the 7 line may be slightly delayed. MTA Capital Construction will release an update within the next few months, but revenue service may not start until the first quarter of 2014. Michael Horodniceanu, head of the unit, has said the Mayor will ride the subway he views as his legacy whether it is a test train or not. No one though is surprised at the delay. Meanwhile, we can remember when the Olympics nearly came to New York. Enthusiasm amongst city residents was decidedly mixed, but the subways would have benefited once the athletes all went home. The station at 41st St. would have been a reality instead of a lost opportunity.