Home Asides MTA: All SAS Phase 1 blasting now complete

MTA: All SAS Phase 1 blasting now complete

by Benjamin Kabak

The Second Ave. Subway took another step toward completion today — and Upper East Side residents will now get something of a reprieve — as the agency announced that all blasting for Phase 1 construction is complete. The controlled explosions began in November of 2009, and the final blast, for a future escalator at the north side of 86th St., took place at 5:21 p.m. this past Monday. “This is a significant milestone, and one which I am sure will be welcomed by all of our Second Avenue community neighbors,” Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, said.

Additionally, the heave construction for the 96th Street station cavern wrapped earlier this month. The $365 million contract award to a joint venture of E.E. Cruz and Company and Tully Construction Company Joint Venture is the third of ten to finish for the long-delayed subway line. This contract involved utility relocation, demolition of existing buildings, underpinning, slurry wall construction, station excavation, and concrete placement of the station invert slab of the main station, entrances, and ancillary facilities. Crews relocated approximately 82,000 linear feet of Con Ed cables and 4500 feet of Verizon cables and removed 440,000 tons of soil, rock and concrete debris.

The MTA says that completion of Phase 1 is still on pace for December of 2016. So we have now just three more years to go before the Second Ave. Subway becomes, in part, a reality.

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24 comments

Larry Littlefield November 22, 2013 - 3:10 pm

That’s $365 million for less than the cost to build one station. And that station will have high operating costs due to the need to maintain elevators and escalators.

Maybe William Barlcay Parsons WAS right and cut and cover IS cheaper. So you save money on the tunnel, but you lose more on the stations.

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Nathanael November 22, 2013 - 4:09 pm

Cut and cover *is* cheaper in most (not all) situations, and it *is* because of the station construction costs.

(The big exception is when cut and cover requires underpinning a lot more existing stuff, while mined tubes don’t. This is the main reason central London switched to mined tubes relatively early — there was just so much in the way underground utilities already, including other underground railway lines, massive sewers, pneumatic tubes, all kinds of crap. Utility relocation is the big cost-inflator for much subway construction. Diving way under the utilities can save a lot of trouble when it’s possible.)

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D. Graham November 22, 2013 - 6:21 pm

How is cut and cover cheaper when the price tag is in reference to the 96th Street station which out of all stations is the only one to be built via cut and cover?

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Billy G November 23, 2013 - 4:42 am

Is that one of the stations built within previously-built ROW from the ’60’s?

Maybe that’s why.

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al November 25, 2013 - 12:20 pm

No, the 70’s era tunnels are to the north of the 96th st station.
P.S. 96th St was the TBM launch box. They chose to build it in a manner that required a deeply excavated box, and thus inflating the cost.

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Larry Littlefield November 23, 2013 - 9:29 am

The stations are ALWAYS cut and cover. But if the rail line in between is cut and cover, they can be one level down from the street, as on the IRT.

If the rail line between is a deep tunnel, then you have to dig deep for every station – and install lots of elevators and escalators.

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Guest November 23, 2013 - 12:43 pm

How much will it cost to operate these elevators and escalators?

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Larry Littlefield November 23, 2013 - 8:39 pm

Seems like escalators always need a lot of maintenance on the subway. They are out of action all the time.

Guest November 24, 2013 - 5:25 pm

So true.

63rd street always has a problem

D. Graham November 24, 2013 - 10:17 pm

That’s incorrect. 96th was the only cut and cover station. 86th and 72nd were controlled blasted open.

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Randall Lister November 22, 2013 - 3:52 pm

While I fully realized that his particular ship has long since sailed, I cannot help but think that this whole decade long project could have been done more quickly and easily if there had been less concern with disturbing the local residents. And, as a result, the years of blasting, etc. could have been eliminated in favor of “normal” cut-and-cover that might actually have been LESS disruptive due its shorter duration.

And not only that, the ratio of the cost of four tracks relative to just two is far lower for cut-and-cover than for rock tunnelling, isn’t it?

So the slower and more expensive alternative was chosen, and for no real countervailing benefit.

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Timur S November 22, 2013 - 6:02 pm

Why is there such obsession with having more than two sets of tracks? The rest of the world is doing fine with just two tracks, not mentioning their ridership is higher.

“Normal” cut and cover would be impossible as it would cause collapse of transportation along and beyond whole route of 2nd ave. The traffic was/is bad with limited access, I couldn’t imagine how worse it could have been if there was no access at all. Keeping in mind Parkinson’s law, it would have taken just as much time to complete the route while inconveniencing people whole much more. It also would have made the expansion more vulnerable to the NIMBY opposition.
I’m not saying cut and cover is bad idea, it just doesn’t work for this specific project at this specific location.

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Roxie November 23, 2013 - 1:11 am

I thought they should at least have 3 tracks north of 63rd Street, so that there could be rush hour express service toward Midtown in the morning and toward 125th in the evening. Also, you’d have space to lay up trains at other times, or send trains around potential incidents that would completely tie up a 2-track line (sick passenger, disabled train, etc.).
I do agree, though, that south of 63rd where the line is just the T, 2 tracks would be enough.

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Simon November 26, 2013 - 1:12 pm

There aren’t enough stations to have express service — what would it bypass? In the long term, I agree that we should have express tracks to tie into the Bronx and Brooklyn.

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Nyland8 November 23, 2013 - 9:22 am

“Why is there such obsession with having more than two sets of tracks? The rest of the world is doing fine with just two tracks, not mentioning their ridership is higher.”

The midtown Manhattan trunk lines – A/C/E, 1/2/3, B/D/F/M, 4/5/6 and N/Q/R all have more than two tracks. Every one of them. The SAS will be the only one that doesn’t.

Having more tracks offers options for both express and local trains, it provides by-passes for emergencies, it allows work to be done without entirely shutting down the line at night … the benefits are enormous, and the inconveniences more tracks can avoid affect everyone in the city.

As it now stands, the TBM portion of Phase I was done long ago, and finished years before the line will open. They could have kept the TBMs in the ground, put in two more tubes with no disruption of the current work, and still have opened on the same date.

Even if they only tracked two tunnels initially, they could have left the other two tubes unused until more phases were constructed and operational. It was myopic to build only two.

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Eric November 24, 2013 - 7:01 am

In general, I believe modern metros do not 4-track because it’s almost as expensive as two 2-track subways and does not get you twice the service improvement.

I’m not sure how that works when stations are the dominant expense (with TBMs) and 4-track systems can share stations, though.

Also the UES is narrow enough that where would you put an extra 2-track line? On 1st Ave? You don’t gain much service with that line.

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Simon November 26, 2013 - 1:08 pm

2 Av is not a narrow street.

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al November 25, 2013 - 1:05 pm

The Manhattan truck lines have service frequencies at or beyond what even virtual moving block signalling (i.e. CBTC) can manage on two tracks. The IRT Lex Ave operates 55+ TPHPD (trains per hour per direction) between City Hall and 125th St. The IND 8th Ave, depending on the direction, runs 33 (southbound) or 43 (northbound) TPHPD between Canal St and W50th St during AM peak. IRT 7th Ave (50 TPHPD) IND 6th Ave (45 TPHPD) and BMT Broadway (40 TPHPD) trunks have similar service frequencies.

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D. Graham November 22, 2013 - 6:25 pm

Everyone seems to easily forget we’re not cutting and covering 19th and 20th Century streets. Look at blog post. Look at how much wiring and piping for utilities that needed to be relocated. That seems to be the big miss. And we keep saying that normal old cut and cover is the answer. It was in the old days. It’s clearly not the answer now.

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John-2 November 22, 2013 - 9:01 pm

They did cut-and-cover on all three segments of the SAS in the early 1970s, including the now-filled in section between 2nd and 9th Streets, and they did cut-and-cover from 1963-68 on the initial section of the Sixth Avenue connection to 63rd Street, between 53rd Street and Central Park South. None of those areas were pristine rolling hills 40-45 years ago — they all had water, sewer, steam, electrical and other conduits in place.

It was the well-funded NIMBYs that showed up with the battle over the Heckscher Playground that set the template for tying the MTA up in court over shallow tunnel construction projects. Once that was over, the MTA decided unless they were building a line that had to tie into existing near-surface lines, everything was going to be deep enough to avoid having to deal with a full-length open scar, and the major construction bottlenecks would be limited to the areas around the planned station sites.

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Christopher November 22, 2013 - 10:09 pm

I’d be interested to know how well those neighborhoods came back after cut and cover. When BART was built under Market Street via cut and cover it took 20 years for some of that area to even begin to recover. Some of it still hasn’t recovered. (And is only starting to now, 30 years later.)

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John-2 November 22, 2013 - 10:39 pm

On Second Avenue, the MTA (to be fair) did kind of know what was coming as far as protests over construction by people who could afford good lawyers, because the sections they chose for the initial work — north of 96th and south of 10th — were the ones that were the most down-on-their-heels and with the least amount of political clout on the avenue, circa 1970. Conversely, they were also the areas that would suffer the least economic damage collectively by having wooden plans for streets for several years because they had the fewest number of businesses (though obviously, if you had a business in that area, you felt about the same as those on upper Second Avenue do now if their businesses are around the launch boxes).

On the other hand, the area between 53rd and CPS on Sixth Avenue already had been mostly developed by the mid-1960s, when it was torn up for the 63rd Street connector, and that section came back quickly following the work because the area in general was a desirable location.

Jonah November 23, 2013 - 7:50 pm

Mid-market had (has) bigger problems going for it than a subway construction project.

Guest November 24, 2013 - 5:23 pm

As long as the trains don’t crawl to next stop then I’m good

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