Aug
24

Work set to resume at 72nd St. SAS site Monday

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A 1915 explosion amidst subway construction cost the lives of at least seven workers. (New York Public Library)

Satisfied with safety measures that have been implemented in the aftermath of Tuesday’s explosion, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announced yesterday that work will begin again on Monday. SSK Contractors will not be allowed to blast until the MTA approves their plans, but the five-day hold on the project will be lifted.

The MTA, meanwhile, has released its preliminary findings on the accident. In a release, the authority explained the following:

Holes drilled at this shaft for the loading of explosives have normally been done vertically, allowing the blast pressure to dissipate horizontally. However on Tuesday, rock outcrops, which were being blasted at the top of a future escalator, needed to be drilled diagonally. When the blast occurred, debris hit the underside of the decking concentrated at the southeast corner of the site. The decking lifted and allowed rock to be propelled into the air and onto the street. In reviewing yesterday’s incident, we determined that the method used to keep the decking in place above the blast area was inadequate for this type of blast.

Luckily, it was a non-fatal accident that, thanks to safety precautions instituted at ground level, led to no injuries either. The worst of the damage concerned some blown-out windows a few stories above the work zone, and this lack of real impact highlights just how focused on safety the project had been so far. The neighbors nearby won’t be satisfied until this thing is wrapped up, and getting work moving again is the quickest way to ensure a speedier resolution.

Meanwhile, while facing questions from reporters on the Payroll Tax court case — more on the reaction to that misguided ruling later — Lhota defended SSK. “The contractor has been blasting for four years now,” Lhota said. “I do have confidence.”

And why wouldn’t he? Once upon a time, subway construction deaths and accidents were measured per mile, and along Second Ave., the only construction-related death concerned a tragic accident when a garbage truck hauling debris struck and killed a woman. The 7 line extension and East Side Access have suffered one death a piece. If anything, the system seems to be working generally fine despite the headlines, complaints and dramatic photos. This was a loud accident through and through with ultimately confined consequences.



3 Responses to “Work set to resume at 72nd St. SAS site Monday”

  1. Eric F says:

    Good post, agreed 100%. This project has many flaws, but safety has really not been one of them. The best approach is to get this sucker finished as quickly as possible.

  2. Nathanael says:

    I will say that although I think SSK seems to do well *by New York standards*, this is sloppy by the standards of the rest of the country, let alone the world.

    I think that there is a lot to be said for the statement, which I’ve read before, that the very best contractors won’t bid on public projects in New York State because of the overhead involved in the arcane and convoluted rules of the NYS bidding system. So we get the second-rate contractors. Who are OK, they’re competent, just… not first-rate.

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