Jan
30

Photo: A recent glimpse underneath Second Ave.

By

Work underway at the future 72nd Street Station, where crews are filling out the raw rock of the cavern with concrete lining. Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin.

When you really stop to think about it, what’s happening on a day-to-day basis beneath Second Ave. is truly quite impressive. Despite the massively high costs, the slow pace of construction and the fact that all we’re getting is a two-track subway extension, we’re allowed to marvel at the sheer size of the caverns being dug out underneath the Upper East Side and the scope of the engineering work.

I haven’t been inside the work site at Second Ave. in a while, but the MTA’s own Patrick Cashin took a trip there recently. He shared his photos on Flickr, and while it’s tough to capture the enormity of the work in one photograph, his images allow us to see how things are progressing. We see the walls at 72nd Street coming into view and platform areas taking shape.

My favorite shots are those of the work in progress at 63rd St. So many subway riders used the F train at that station and had no idea that a semi-completed platform and set of active tracks were behind the false wall. We can see the tracks and third rail ready for further use. We can see parts of the platform already in revenue service. We can see new staircases and an idle F train.

So take a glimpse through the full set. It’s a great bit of infrastructure porn, and with no promise of funding for future phases any time soon, it may just be the last subway extension in progress for quite some time.



94 Responses to “Photo: A recent glimpse underneath Second Ave.”

  1. Jerrold says:

    “Scope of the scope of the” must be a typo.

  2. John-2 says:

    Looks WMATA-ish — or to go old school, like a 21st Century version of the Interborough’s Washington Heights stations.

    I’m not expecting chandeliers like the 168th Street station had in 1904, but please put in better lighting than the D.C. stations have, so it doesn’t look like a planetarium just before they totally dim the lights so the show on the ceiling can begin.

  3. Someone says:

    It looks like the Roosevelt Island station, or a station you’d normally find on the WMATA.

    When this station is opened, the MTA should make it plain and simplistic, but brightly lighted and high-tech.

    • D in B says:

      I’m thinking it will be white bathroom tile and with exposed cool-blue fluorescent tubes. It’s so classically MTA why should we expect anything else for all those billions?

      • John-2 says:

        I’d be surprised if they tile it, since they seem to be going for a more ‘modern’ look. My guess is due to the high vaulted ceiling, it will end up being a ‘smooth ceiling’ WMATA, with un-sectioned raw concrete … which, like the leakier spots on WMATA, won’t look so hot 20-30 years from now when it acquires the rust/slime coloring (which still would be better than if the paint the thing — then after 20-30 years it will invoke Grand Central on the 7 or Lexington on the E/M).

  4. BBnet3000 says:

    Have fun riding escalators for days to get down there…

  5. alek says:

    Why is there an idling F train in one of the photos?

    • Scott E says:

      As evidenced by the signal in the foreground, this is the T2 track — the one that F trains normally use. I imagine the photographer must have been peeking around the edge of the construction zone.

      The Second Avenue trains will use the G3 and G4 tracks; you can see signals with those designations in other photos.

    • Someone says:

      Um… it needs to turn back around? Trains can short turn, can’t they

  6. JJJ says:

    Wish theyd leave the rock visible in some stations. I believe they do that in Sweden.

  7. Nyland8 says:

    I’m confused, Benjamin. Why is there any work related to Second Ave going on near 63rd and Lexington? I thought the 2nd Ave line was only expected to connect to the “Q” Line 4 blocks further south.

    SAS4735 “This photo shows work underway at station at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue, which is being expanded to accommodate Second Avenue Subway trains.”

    I can understand where they might want station connection between the F and the T/Q, but the lines are perpendicular. I can’t imagine why they would ever run parallel or share tracks.

    • Someone says:

      The SAS was planned with the 63rd Street line, so provisions were made to connect the line to the SAS when SAS was complete. The Q will pass through the station when the SAS is complete.

      • Nyland8 says:

        The Q is switching to the 6th Ave trunk?? Where? Herald Square?

        • Someone says:

          I never said that. The connecting tracks to 57 Street-Seventh Avenue from the 63rd Street line already exist.

          Even if the Q were running along 6 Avenue, the Q would be able to serve all Brooklyn and Upper Manhattan stops without any significant deviation.

      • Jerrold says:

        The SAS will use the current 63 St. station when it starts running.
        The T train will still be far into the future at that time.

        The Q train will NO LONGER be on its current route into Astoria.
        After 57 St./7 Ave., the Q will stop at 63 St./Lex. Ave., 72 St./2 Ave., 86 St./2 Ave, and 96 St./2 Ave.

        • Nyland8 says:

          Got it.

        • al says:

          T train could run from 96th St once Phase 1 opens. The southern terminal could be 2nd Ave-Houston, Church Ave, or Broadway Junction/Metropolitan Ave. It would be infrequent @ 4-6 TPH to accommodate the M and G. One arrangement can be as a special train that runs peak hrs only.

          • Someone says:

            And what would be the point of that? You can’t just transfer from the Q to the F or M?

            • Alex C says:

              Exactly. And I’d call it a V anyways, just so it fits the “line that nobody rides” profile.

            • al says:

              I’m going to read that as “Can’t you just transfer to the F or M.”

              Yes, during off peak that would work very well. However, think of the big picture. When Phase 1 opens up (~2017), there will be riders who want to transfer cross platform between Q and F. 2017 will be 10 years after the start of the Financial Meltdown. It usually takes ~10 years for these crises to resolve themselves. By there will likely be more jobs and higher ridership.

              The 2nd Ave commuters who want Midtown between 6th Ave and 4th Ave, but avoid cattle car Lex Ave lines, or avoid longer transfer at Times Sq or Herald Sq for 6th Ave stations for area due south and west, might be a bit much for F to handle during max demand parts of AM Peak. A few T trains running down the 2nd and 6th Ave line would provide for some relief to crush load F.

              How do you integrate F Express with existing G and M service? How do you deal with the skipped stations in Brooklyn? A few T trains out of Church Ave or Kings Highway to 96th-2nd Ave would do the trick.

              There is another but more equipment and manpower intensive way to alleviate the crowding on F @ 63rd-Lex Ave. F or M local out of 179st. Shift a few F to Express out of Hillside and have a few more trains for transfers to and from Q at 63rd st.

              • Someone says:

                The Sixth Avenue Local already has 23 trains per hour or so during peak hours. I wouldn’t want to put even more stress on that section of track.

                • al says:

                  There is enough trackage between 50th and 57th st, and the the curve branching from 53rd st crosstown at 5th Ave to 6th ave trunk, to hold 600′ trains and not block trains from entering 57th st or 5th Ave. That will allow for managed merges. The same applies for Christie St connection.

                  The Peak only T will add ~4tph. F is 15tph peak and M is 10tph peak. That is 29-30tph total. The B,D,Q used to run 30tph on 6th Ave. E,F runs 30tph on Queens Blvd. It can be done.

                  • Someone says:

                    The B, D, Q and E, F are all express. This is a in different ballpark altogether.

                    • al says:

                      Theres nothing to say local can’t run 30tph. At Rockefeller Center, 42nd St, 34th st, the B,D,Q ran down 6th ave and stopped at 3 stops with local spacing. There were 2 merges, 1 between CPW local (B) and express (D) just south of Columbus Circle and 1 just north of Rockefeller Center (B,D to Q). All together they ran 30tph with considerations for A and C on 8th Ave line.

                    • Someone says:

                      I think the Q is also going to run close headways on the SAS of about 40 tph. While I agree with your idea, I’m not sure if this is going to be possible.

        • Kevin Walsh says:

          What will make up for the Q service into Astoria?

    • The Second Avenue Subway turns west at 63rd & Lexington, stops at that station, then runs on an existing non-revenue track that runs from 63rd & Lexington to 57th & 7th where it ties into current Q line.

      • Nyland8 says:

        Thanks. So I take it that the connecting tunnel already exists, and there’s no expectation of connecting 2nd Ave to the Q at 60th.

        • Someone says:

          Actually, there are no plans for that. In fact it was actually planned for the SAS tracks to go to 63rd Street all the way back to 1970. Merging them onto 60th would have caused unnecessary stress (i.e. 4 services onto 2 tracks.)

        • Alex C says:

          Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but you could’ve used Google.

          http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/.....-47-63.png

          See the two tracks in black at 63 St? Those are behind current walls at both levels of the station. They will continue and turn north at 2 Ave and be at one level, then continue along 2 Ave.

          • Nyland8 says:

            Cool! That’s crystal clear.

            But why would anyone use Google when posing a simple question here at the Sagas yields so many informed answers? To say nothing of the wealth of opinions – snarky and otherwise.

            Ben’s site has become the preeminent repository of knowledge about all forms of greater NYC transit. It’s the go-to place.

            While we’re on the 2nd Ave Subway subject, does anyone know of a tunnel map for the alleged link from Pell to Canal? Has anyone been inside it in this millennium yet? I’ve read that it is part of the plan on the way down to Hanover, but my Google searches have yielded little.

  8. JJ says:

    Awesome stuff as usual

    Thx Benjamin !!!

  9. Saul says:

    Speaking of east side tunnels, why wasn’t Option 1 considered again? We really need a new deep tunnel under GCT when we could have had one closer to street level?

    http://www.mta.info/capconstr/.....ummary.pdf

    • Someone says:

      Because cut-and cover would have taken too long, and besides, the new station is being built under the existing station, rather than next to it.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Cut and cover doesn’t take any longer than deep-level tunneling. It’s just more disruptive to the surface.

        • John-2 says:

          The MTA probably still has collective nightmares from the legendary Battle of the Heckshire Playground back in the late 1960s and early 70s. They’re not doing cut-and-cover again in Manhattan, unless the line has to move close to the surface to connect up with another existing line.

          • Someone says:

            The Hechscher Playground? You mean, when the MTA tried to do SAS the first time around?

            • John-2 says:

              Yep. Even though the 63rd Street line was deep bore through most of the park and on the Fifth Avenue side, in order to connect with the BMT Seventh Avenue line north of 57th the MTA had to do a little cut-and-cover, which included temporarily displacing the playground. That didn’t sit well with the high-income folk whose children used the playground, and the agency went through about 2-3 years of legal headaches.

              The MTA did the same type of construction with the IND extension from 53rd St. to the park back in the late 60s. All of that was cut-and-cover as well, but even though Sixth Avenue was wooden planks for the better part of a decade, you didn’t hear half the hue and cry as with the playground fight. Since more people today as media savvy and have access to outlets only available to the wealthy or connected 40-plus years ago, any effort to do new cut-and-cover today would result in the same hassles, which is why it’s a non-starter except for connecting with already-existing lines.

        • Bolwerk says:

          It can be way faster (and cheaper).

          And would it be more disruptive? The poor suckers near the launchbox got a years-long disruption. At least away from stations, the cut and cover disruption could have been measured in weeks. (And, near stations, they’re kind of getting cut and cover anywaey.)

          • Nyland8 says:

            Actually, in this case, TBM is faster and cheaper than C&C. Among the problems with doing any more C&C in Manhattan, anywhere other than through a park, is that there are now far too many utilities to reroute. It’s slow, it’s expensive, and it wasn’t quite the case 100 years ago.

            Also, when you’re doing C&C down streets lined with buildings, they tend to be structural compromised far more easily. That means engineering fees and lawsuits. But running a deep TBM through Manhattan schist might not even register on a seismograph.

            There are plenty of great places to do C&C around the boroughs. Through Van Cortlandt, down the Mosholu, through Bronx River Park, out the Pelham Parkway, down along the Hutch to Ferry Point Park – just as an example.

            Then you could TBM under the Sound and follow the Whitestone with a new elevated rail. A short trip down the Van Wyck to Industry Pond, then go C&C again through the Kissena corridor to Cunningham … etc, etc.

            Using those methods in the right places, you could probably get 12-15 working rail miles for the price of every mile of the SAS, dodging most of the NIMBYs, connecting to LaGuardia, and … where ever. The only big ticket would be tunneling the Sound. (Unless some fool politician needs to build a signature station that costs half-a-billion)

            For cents on the dollar, you could have a subway run all the way from Creedmore to the 1 Line at 242nd St. And C&C through parkland is so fast, the locals wouldn’t lose their ball field or playground for more than a single season. In some cases, merely a few months.

            The only thing faster would be reactivating an existing ROW.

            • Bolwerk says:

              Is or could be? ‘Cause, either way, this seems more expensive than it should be.

              I’m not sure I buy an ideal level of cost-effectiveness with a deep bore model would be cheaper than an ideal jab at C&C, however. So, utilities have to be moved; that’s a PITA, but only impractical based on a zero-service downtown assumption. It’s not exactly impossible, and doesn’t sound anywhere near as difficult as this bore scheme. I think it’s within our capabilities to reenforce buildings, and it’s certainly within our capabilities to condemn them if they do pose a structural problem – which we’re doing anyway, at least for ventilation purposes.

              Going a little more out on a limb here, it might even be worth it to use the opportunity to modernize utilities so that they can be accessed without manually digging holes in the street.

              Anyway, other cities have utilities under their streets too.

              • Nyland8 says:

                Is.

                I have clients up and down SAS and ESA – and they’re all where stations are being built, or vent shafts, or caverns that come too close to the surface. C&C could cost an order of magnitude more in engineering and litigation alone. To say nothing of the cost of stop work orders when anybody sees a pebble fly by – as in August of last year. That kind of event would become commonplace.

                And the noise of drilling and blasting rock would have the entire neighborhood up in arms.

                Other cities aren’t built on Manhattan schist. In most cities, once you get past the black top and utilities, you can move down the street with nothing more than a trackscavator and dump trucks. Not in midtown. The rock is too near the surface. Going down 2nd Ave, you’d probably have to get south of 11th Street to make C&C practical – and even then it could be hit or miss. And the longer your cut is open, the more resistance you’d incur from the public.

                Like I said, there are plenty of places in the outer boroughs where C&C is preferred – but there are very good reasons why TBMs and tunnel mining were selected for the earliest SAS contracts.

                And at this point, is it even worth second guessing?

                • Bolwerk says:

                  There is no point in second guessing the current phase, but we could dodge the bullet on retarded depths, high costs, and the two-track constraint on future phases by doing things the way other developed countries do it.

                  I have a little trouble believing that excavating Manhattan schist from the surface is harder than boring it. (And I’m not totally opposed to boring, where it makes sense. The issue is we’re building the SAS almost the way the Chunnel was built.)

        • Eric says:

          “Cut and cover … It’s just more disruptive to the surface.”

          Sounds like the typical American need for instant gratification. We buy cheap Chinese-made consumer goods, even though they will fail soon and we will need to replace them and end up paying more overall. Similarly, we are unwilling to close a street for a couple years, even though as a result commuters will have to waste time going far underground for the next couple centuries.

          (I’m American myself, BTW)

        • Someone says:

          Yeah, I know. It however actually does take longer to do cut and cover than to do deep-boring.

          • Nyland8 says:

            It depends. If you’re only going through overburden – soil, clay, sand, fill – with no matrix of utilities to reroute (read: parkland) then C&C can be much faster than TBM. If you’re going through rock, it’s a different story.

    • D.R. Graham says:

      Also what you’re referring to is ESA – LIRR to GCT. There is no more room left closer to the street for new tunnels around GCT. Deep cavern was the best option besides taking some platforms for Metro-North.

      • Eric says:

        The actual best option was a tunnel from GCT to Penn Station so Metro North and LIRR trains could through-run. Then, Metro North would only need about 6 platforms at GCT, instead of the current 40 or so.

        • AG says:

          Metro North has overtaken LIRR in ridership – so Metro North needs more tracks actually… and your idea doesn’t explain how LIRR trains would get to the east side. Are you saying they should have gone to Penn and then turn back and go to Grand Central…??

          • Nathanael says:

            The “alternative G” proposal is to run most Metro-North trains through to New Jersey, which reduces the number of tracks needed for Metro-North at GCT, and the number of tracks needed for NJT at Penn. Also run most LIRR trains to Penn Station through to New Jersey, which also reduces the number of tracks needed for NJT at Penn. Obviously it requires the second pair of Hudson Tubes.

            Eric is proposing a full set of connectors at 34th & Park Ave so that you could also run LIRR up Metro-North (and onwards to Westchester) through the same tunnels.

            Such a set of underground every-which-way flying junctions is present on PATH in at least two locations. However, it would be very hard to retrofit *given the very expensive real estate above 24th and Park Avenue*. Which is why it was given up on. Sigh.

            • AG says:

              NJT wants to increase.. not decrease space at Penn. Metro North’s plan is to take the space vacated by LIRR when they begin running to Grand Central by running some Hudson Line and Hell Gate (an off shoot of the New Haven Line) to Penn.

              Plus even you did a run through on all 3 (NJT – LIRR – Met North)… how would the logistics of schedules work? Most ppl riding those trains want to get into Manhattan. So how often would those trains run? making connections is a fact of travelling no matter whether on an airplane or a subway or such. At least now those on commuter rails will have more options for connections.

              as to the last part – exactly – too expensive to do. we could all think up 1000 things to do… but doesn’t make them feasible.

              • marv says:

                The issue of through running focuses not as much on saving transfers and giving through routings as enabling more people to use central infrastructure which is now at capacity. In this case we are talking about tracks at and leading to Penn Station. Reversing trains or sending empty trains under the east river to the sunnyside yards is poor use of limited these facilities.

                Running one line of trains from A->B->A and another from C->B->C where B is a constriction point is far less efficient than running trains from a->b->c and back. This is the basis for wanting to through run trains from LI and or Westchester to NJ via Penn Station.

                Being able to get from Jamaica (and points east) to Newark and beyond without transferring would be nice as well and may induce some people to use mass transit.

                • AG says:

                  of course there are dreams and then there is reality. if you find a way to come up with the billions and billions more it would have taken – we could all come up with 50 dream projects. I’m dealing with what is realistic. it was a stretch even to get dollars for east side access and to build less than 1/3 of the second ave. line. they are trying to find ways to get money for the gateway tunnel since arc was cancelled.

                  as to what you said about inducing some ppl to use mass transit… well as you said – things are at capacity. those who don’t use transit in the NYC area now won’t use it at all… probably even if you put a stop at the front door of their house and then their job. they’d probably find something else to complain about why they need to drive.

  10. Paul says:

    I hope at least they remind people to “Stand on the right, Walk on the left” when riding escalators. IT will really suck to have that one ignorant/arrogant person who just stands on the left side and won’t move.

  11. Spendmore Wastemore says:

    Slightly off the current topic, but why wasn’t *some* consideration made for future installation of either

    4 tracks or
    a third track, to handle the inevitable breakdowns/accidents/maintenance.

    Doing 2 additional bores now was obviously not in the cards. But how about just leaving space for another bore, or doing one of the bores large enough for 2 tracks?

    • Charley says:

      New York is – I believe (someone correct me if I’m wrong here) – the only urban heavy rail system with extensive 4 track express/local service. While we can all thank the engineers & workers who built the system a century ago for thinking ahead and anticipating population growth & efficient travel, doing the same now would be prohibitively expensive and simply isn’t done anywhere in the world.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m disappointed that they can’t do it, because it will anticipate 100-150 years of population growth. With modern alignment/track/tunnel engineering, trains on the new line (should) be as fast as they are on some of the more modern systems around the world and serve its purpose.

      • Someone says:

        Why would you need an additional express service along an area where you can just catch the 4/5 trains nearby? And by the way, trains on the Second Avenue Subway were planned to be fast in the 1970s, but since the SAS was never built, trains never exceeded 75 mph.

        New York is – I believe (someone correct me if I’m wrong here) – the only urban heavy rail system with extensive 4 track express/local service.

        No, Chicago and Philly have it too. So does Tokyo.

        • BBnet3000 says:

          With the spacing of the SAS stations and the relatively small number of them, I dont think express service is really an issue. Maybe if the line were ever extended to the Bronx (as it is on the second system map).

          • Nyland8 says:

            Well … there’s always the occasional detour. Just two days ago I was on a northbound 1 train coming out of 96th Street. It was announced that due to mechanical problems, the train at 103rd was disabled, and because we had extra track, we were able to proceed to 137th.

            Without that stretch of track, and entire line of northbound 1 trains going back to Rector St. would have been halted for a good portion of the rush hour.

            Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often.

            But if you build it, good reasons to use it will materialize. And if you don’t …

      • Nathanael says:

        “New York is – I believe (someone correct me if I’m wrong here) – the only urban heavy rail system with extensive 4 track express/local service. While we can all thank the engineers & workers who built the system a century ago for thinking ahead…”

        They didn’t think ahead.

        If you look back in the history, the subway lines were mostly replacements for elevated lines. (The story of the bias against elevated lines and the desire to tear them all down is another matter; from what I read, a major earthquake was the push which caused the “subway” plans to start being developed.)

        The elevated lines were generally two-track. The elevated lines were also *full*. Therefore, when building the *replacement* subway lines, they were given extra capacity by being quad-tracked.

    • Nathanael says:

      A third track (for short turns, trouble, etc.) was proposed at 72nd street and then cut as a “cost saving” measure.

  12. marv says:

    Forget tunneling – too expensive
    Forget cut and cover – too disruptive

    When Disney wants to make a show place, monorail is used. If it is fashionable for Disney, why not NY.

    Put stick in the ground on edge of the side walk and have a narrow beam run on top of them.

    One has to wonder how much a one track monorail down 1st Ave paired with a one track monorail up 2nd avenue for the full length of Manhattan would have cost vs the tunneling done for but truncated upper east side 2nd avenue boondoggle.

    Given debt service savings, the line could have provided free rides and still cost less over the long run.

    Perhaps it is not too late, and instead of trying to extend this subway line south of 63rd street, a monorail should be used.

    • Eric says:

      We had something like that. It was called the Second Avenue El. It got torn down because people didn’t like the noise and shadows of aerial lines.

      • Someone says:

        No, it was because the Second Avenue Subway was already anticipated by that point.

        • Nathanael says:

          No, it was for the same reason the other Els in Manhattan were torn down. A combination of noise and shadow complaints, and earthquake concerns.

          You only HAVE subways because people wanted the els torn down. Most of the IRT subways, and many of the BRT/BMT subways, and some of the IND subways, were specifically and deliberately replacements for Els.

    • AG says:

      Disney is not NY… simple and complex as that.

  13. marv says:

    7 yeaes of construction whem people line on a place for 10 to 20 years is a bad investment when there are better choices.

    Comparring a rubber wheeled monorail running on a single concrete beam to a 19th century noisy eyesore is apoor comparison.

    • Nathanael says:

      Monorails don’t work. They’re proprietary, expensive to maintain, expensive to operate, break down frequently, and most of all *they’re really hard to put switches in*.

      On top of that, it’s now illegal to build the “slim monorail on a single concrete beam” because it needs an evacuation pathway.

      A modern concrete El is preferable in all cases to a monorail.

      • Someone says:

        Agreed.

        Monorails, however, can be found useful in theme parks and attractions where it would be burdensome to walk from a parking lot to that attraction (e.g. the Bronx Zoo).

        • Bolwerk says:

          Which is where they should stay. Monorail thumpers are perhaps the only vanity transit advocates dumber than BRT advocates.

  14. My land says:

    Bol,what is it you think keeps 2nd Ave from having an elevated train? Take that public resistance and multiply it by an order of magnitude and you might begin to approach what you’d get drilling and blasting your way downtown. Manhattan is not like other places. Phase 1 was done the most practical way it could be. And your depth paranoia won’t change the planned elevations for future phases

    • Someone says:

      The depth of the tunnels was planned in 2007 or something. Only the MTA could have that type of foresight, for a bunch of phases that probably won’t happen in decades.

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