The Far West Side of Manhattan is a bit of a no-man’s land. Outside of the Javits Center and some barbecue at Daisy May’s, only storage units, the Intrepid and some boat decks provide reasons for a trip west. Yet in just over 22 months, Manhattan’s first new subway extension since the late 1980s will open, and the 7 line will head to 34th St. and 11th Ave. to an extensive deep cavern station that may one day, if all goes according to plan, serve over 30,000 passengers per hour. The Hudson Yards development will one day be a big destination.
The 7 line extension is the MTA’s under-the-radar $2.1 billion megaproject. The route goes through sparsely populated lands without a heavy residential or mixed-used presence as Second Ave. is. It’s a project that was spurred on by the idea of bringing the Olympics to New York but outlived the failed bid for the 2012 Games. It’s been fully funded, to an extent, by the city, but cost overruns shelved what would have been a very useful station at 41st St. and 10th Ave.
In a sense, this project is a throwback to another era in New York City’s history. Despite lofty projections and a three-block-long mezzanine that puts the IND’s overbuilt system to shame, when it opens, the new station will see far fewer than 30,000 passengers an hour. Rather, this station is meant to spur on development at the Hudson Yards area. With a subway stop, Manhattan’s last frontier will become a much more desirable area. “When we open,” Michael Horodniceanu, the MTA Capital Construction president, said during a tour of the extension, “the ridership will yet to be there. We expect this to spur ridership.”
On Friday, I took a tour of the 7 line extension. At 34th St. and 11th Ave., across the street from the Javits Center, the new station is a deep cavern, over 100 feet underground, with a mezzanine that spans over three city blocks. It will have inclined escalators and elevators leading into immense entrances. As the new extension will require six additional trainsets for the 7 line, the new build will have tail tracks that will stretch to 25th St. Horodniceanu said future development could lead to a station near Chelsea Piers or a further extension to 14th St. if the money ever materializes. In fact, such work could have been a part of the current extension had someone wished to fund it.
After entering at 34th St., we walked the length of the station and took a stroll through the tunnel connecting the new extension with the current terminal of the 7 train at 41st and 8th Ave. We walked underneath the Lincoln Tunnel, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and active IND tracks at 8th Ave. Still, the lost station was on my mind as I’ve long believed it to be a very costly mistake not to build it. Contractors have flattened out the otherwise steep grade of the tunnel for a stretch at 41st and 10th Ave., and again, if the money materializes, the MTA could build two side platforms there, rectifying this wrong.
By the time we reached 8th Ave., the old and the new merged. We took a peek at the 7 trains waiting to head to Queens and saw the remnants of the lower level IND platform at 42nd and 8th Ave. This platform, long rumored to have been built to block a westward expansion of the 7 train, served as a set for the movie Ghost and has been bisected by the new construction. Today, it serves as a staging area and temporary rest room for the workers underground.
The MTA offers up the 7 line extension of a project that can be built under budget, and while Horodniceanu said it has an “agressive” delivery date of December 31, 2013, they think they can still make it on time. The last contract isn’t due for delivery until June of 2014, and real estate acquisition problems slowed down the overall time frame. But the MTA is offering up substantial bonuses if the contractor can deliver before Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third term is over. The 7 line extension, omitted station and all, has long been Bloomberg’s pet project, and he wants to ride that train before his days are out.
After the jump, a full slideshow of my photos from the tour.