Lhota reaffirms Second Ave. Subway timeline


With word that the East Side Access would likely be delayed until mid-2019 and cost a billion more than last announced, New Yorkers expecting part of a new subway line on the East Side were growing skittish. Would Phase 1 of the Second Ave. subway truly wrap on time or would the MTA have to, once again, delay this project?

Yesterday, MTA head Joseph Lhota addressed the issue head-on. “Things are proceeding in the Second Avenue subway as we projected it a year or so ago,” he said to reporters. “I’m very comfortable that we will be proceeding as planned.” In other words, revenue service is still projected for December 2016, and the project is currently tracking on this pace.

Of course, long-time watchers now that even with this new on-time date, SAS is still years behind schedule, and today on City Room, Clyde Haberman penned a sadly hilarious (or hilariously sad) look at how all NYC transit projects are delayed. From bridge replacements to new tunnels, from subway lines to transit centers and depots, nothing follows the original schedule. The MTA has once again vowed to improve their on-time delivery rate, but history is not on the agency’s side.

25 Responses to “Lhota reaffirms Second Ave. Subway timeline”

  1. Paul says:

    2016 will come and go and I predict no revenue service for SAS. Just look at the still incomplete SONET fiber optic system supposed to be done in 2004 and the new police radio system that was supposed to be done in 2007 and looks as if it will never work as paid for. The SAS is much complex job than those two projects.

    • I actually think you could make a very convincing case that building two miles of new subway is far easier than putting 21st century technology into a 24-7 late 19th century subway system. Not sure I agree with your examples even if I’m skeptical of the Dec. 2016 revenue service date for SAS.

      • Paul says:

        They installed a fiber optic system to remotely run and monitor all the power infrastructure in the subways in 1989-91. It was on time and on budget and still works today to run the power systems. What is the problem now? How come in Europe they can upgrade 100 year old systems?

  2. Meanwhile in China ,

    There were only 10 subways operative in China in 2006, but after 2010 there were 48, and there will be 96 by 2015.

    And those aren’t subway stations.. we’re talking entire subway systems.

    • The Cobalt Devil says:

      Built by slave labor, probably no environmental reviews at all, billions spent that the Chinese will be paying for in 2112, most of them in cities that didn’t exits 20 years ago so no infrastructure had to be moved, no neighborhoods to rip apart.

      I’ll take SAS and the good old USA any day of the friggin’ year.

      • Anon256 says:

        Forget China. Spain opens subway lines quicker and for less than a tenth the cost per km of New York, and they are also dealing old cities and existing systems, and labour and environmental regulations. Indeed, as http://pedestrianobservations......ion-costs/ shows, New York’s subway construction costs are by far the highest in the world.

        First in the world in corruption and incompetence!

      • Alon Levy says:

        Was it actually built by slave labor? China employs prison labor (as does the US, only the US has more prisoners per capita), but the most infamous recent cases of labor issues there are free wage labor, just with low wages and harsh work conditions. Conversely those are also low-productivity jobs – no point in investing in worker productivity when you can just hire more people off the fields and pay them so little.

        For some evidence for this wage-productivity effect, compute the cost of subways in China, in PPP dollars to correct for the undervaluing of the yuan. The only city for which I have data is Beijing, but I have numbers for multiple subway lines there. Their cost is $150 million per km, close to the European average.

  3. Do you remember when the opening of the 63rd street tunnel was “imminent”?

    At the time, in my reckless youth, I was running around inside those tunnels, and saw that they were knee deep in water, the station at Lexington a shambles, etc…

    And then just about a month before the opening, they announced..”Oops.. it will be years, and oh by the way, we’re not sure if a few hundred tons of concrete were ever poured, and we may have shaved a beam we shouldn’t have…”

    • Jerrold says:

      That’s right, and history is repeating itself in more than one way. When the 63rd St. line was finally finished, all we had for a long time afterward was the “Subway to Nowhere”, a stub of only three new stations. And when the Second Avenue Subway finally opens, all we will have for a long time afterward will be a stub of only three new stations.

      • Andy Battaglia says:

        No, that isn’t all we will have. We will have an extension of the Q with access to downtown and Brooklyn. The three new second avenue subway stations will NOT be a stubway like 63rd Street was for a decade before the Queens Blvd connection opened.

  4. John Doe says:

    enough is enough! abolish the bloated unions & hire the Chinese!! They are creating entire subway systems overnight!! the sloth must stop or we’re on track to the 3rd world!!

    • The Cobalt Devil says:

      Yeah, just like the Japanese were going to blow past America and become an economic powerhouse by the year 2000. How are they doing today? The wonderful Chinese economy is all on paper, and I don’t trust any figures released by an authoritarian, Communist gov’t. Spend a year or two in China, work on one of these subway systems, and see how well you like it.

      • Jeff says:

        Yeah, bring up the Japanese and their state-of-the-art transit system that is one of the most efficient and developed in the world. And they are still expanding said system at a fraction of the cost it takes for us to expand ours.

    • JE says:

      the sloth must stop or we’re on track to the 3rd world!!

      I see what you did there.

  5. UESider says:

    dont believe anything a communist government tells you??

    are you saying the U.S. government is any more legit? FDA poisons us, SEC fails, big pharma kills people…

    I love good ol uncle sam, but dont fall for the okey doke

    schedule & budget tricks will always be the same, we’ll pay and just go on our way

  6. Anon says:

    How about this timeline? Moscow Metro 2013

  7. John-2 says:

    As much as I would like there to have been a 10th Avenue and 41st Street station, it’s interesting to do a “contrast and compare” between the SAS, ESA and the 7 line extension to Hudson Yards.

    The latter is certainly the easiest of the three projects, but it is coming in as close to one schedule as any subway extension project since the cut-and-cover tunneling era ended in the 1960s, and it would have been easy to see some sort of “We’re having problems digging under the Lincoln Tunnel and propping up the traffic lanes, so it’s going to take an extra four years” type of excuse for an extended delay. That would have been the lite version of the MTA’s current Harold Interlocking problems with ESA and to your average person, it would have sounded like it was a plausible excuse.

    The difference may be that Hudson Yards is a pet project of Mayor Bloomberg, who still wants to ride the thing before 12/31/13. That means there’s actually a real life politician with clout who has been keeping watch on the project to make sure it moves forward close to on-time, even if it’s only because his ego wants to take credit for it opening while he’s still in office. It also pretty much makes him the first politician since LaGuardia and the Sixth Ave. IND to take a personal interest in having an NYC subway line completed close to on-time. With the projects helmed directly by the MTA and its appointed board and chairman, there’s no politician directly in charge, and with SAS, you’re going even further back to Governor Dewey and Mayor O’Dwyer in terms of politicians who have only had a casual interest in driving expansion of the system forward (though Gov. Cuomo the First gets an asterisk for at the very least hiring the people who drove the existing system back into respectability following previous pols total abdication of oversight once they dumped the blame off on Mr. Ronan and his new agency in 1968).

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      I’m not sure where you get the idea that politicians are especially adept at running construction projects. It’s also dubious to describe the 7 extension as “on time,” when only one of the two stations is getting built. If the way you get done “on time” is to cut half of the service, then you’re not on time.

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        It isn’t about running the projects. It’s an issue of watching over those who are running them.

        MTA construction has political problems, not engineering problems. Politically powerful contractors and unions. Interagency and intra-agency conflict. NIMBYs. There is no one with the power to bust heads, and threaten retribution outside the project, unless the Mayor of Governor can do this.

        “Get this done for not one extra dime or you won’t get a public contract or approval for private construction in this state for 20 years” might concentrate some minds. “Cut the bullshit or I’m pushing for non-union contractors and blasting you in public” might work wonders too. Along with “settle this and get it moving or I’ll fire everyone directly involved in this confilct, and work may way up toward the top of the agencies from there” could also do the trick.

      • Perhaps it’s naive of me, but I don’t think an additional station would have caused the 7 line to miss its revenue service deadline. The more complex station at 34th and 11th Ave. is on time, and the one at 41st St. would have been built simultaneously. As you said though, it’s certainly not on budget.

      • John-2 says:

        Again, I’m not saying it’s all rainbows and unicorns. But the 7 extension was originally planned to meet a target date of being open by early 2012 (in time for the Olympic bid that went to London), while as of now, the mayor is pushing to get it open by the last day of 2013. That’s 18 months behind schedule, but for a subway project — or any mass transit project in the Metro NY area — to be only 18 months behind schedule counts as either a miracle or a sign of the apocalypse, depending on your point of view.

        The 7 project is Bloomberg’s, using city money instead of MTA funds which means he has more skin in the game than any other NYC pol since Fiorello wanted the Sixth Avenue IND finished in a hurry so he could justify tearing the hated el down in ’38. Mayor Mike isn’t the construction engineer, but he has the power to drive the project through any glitches, by expatiating them around normal bureaucratic molasses. SAS and ESA have no such self-interested guardian angel in a similar position of power, and as a result, just slog along year after year.

  8. Richard says:

    There are many reasons why the SAS is taking longer and costing more than it would in Spain or China or anywhere else in the world. The main culprit are the managers at the MTA who allow such things to go on.

    Let’s face it, something is wrong when it takes $4.5 billion and roughly a decade to build 1.7 miles of a system. If everything functioned this way, it would be a catastrophe for all life on this planet. Say this, that, or whatever, but it’s just shameful that this is going on.

    The people with their hand on the wheel, the managers of the MTA have the primary responsibility for using our money well and in a timely way, and it just hasn’t happened.

    There are probably two overarching reasons for this debacle. The first is the CHOICE of the engineering design and schedule. Without going into details, though details are important. Every element of the project is being built in the most arduous fashion. Each tunnel is bored separately, instead of together. The caverns are being mined, instead of bored along with the tunnels. The phasing of the surface work (most of which would be unnecessary) if more boring was done. Right now, the tunnels have been completed and above them the surface work only begun for many of the stations. The surface work should have been completed YEARS ago. The over-reliance at the beginning on letting lawyers delay project elements to wrangle on small money issues with landlords, slowing down an already inefficient schedule by additional months. Managerial incompetence in design and implementation is step by step making this an engineering laughing stock.

    The SECOND main reason is the sweatheart deal that the MTA has with Skanska. Skanska in one form or another gets almost all the big construction contracts with the MTA. Skanska is an excellent engineering company. It built Yankee Stadium in a year. Its private sector contracts it builds well, fast, on budget. Because a private sector client expects and needs that. Skanska is a different animal on the MTA, public sector projects. Things take as long as possible and cost as much as possible in order for Skanska to profit as much as it can. It’s a great formula for Skanska. Build private sector projects fast. Public sector projects slow. The MTA managers are so dumb or corrupt that it keeps going on.

    And we, the public are the suckers.

  9. Al D says:

    There cheerful ads in the subway promoting completion of the project doesn’t help their image much when delivery of the project keeps getting pushed back. It only highlights their ineffectiveness more.

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