Sep
27

Testing lags as December opening for 2nd Ave. Subway in jeopardy

By
The latest glimpses inside the 2nd Ave. Subway show test trains running from 96th St. (via MTA)

The latest glimpses inside the 2nd Ave. Subway show test trains running from 96th St. (via MTA)

MTA officials continue to promise a late December opening for Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway even in the face of mounting concerns that one station is not complete and systems tests are lagging. According to the latest MTA Board materials and a report yesterday by the agency’s independent engineering consultant, if MTA Capital Construction does not nearly double the pace of testing over the next six weeks, the project’s on-time opening could be in doubt.

“The test program is not meeting the completion rate required to finish the testing of all key systems needed for a for a start of revenue service in December,” Kent Haggas, an engineer who has been following the project for months, said. “We have about 300 [tests] left to go and about 12 weeks to make it. It’s our number one concern.”

For the MTA, these tests, and their slow pace, echoes back to the delays in opening the 7 line extension. MTA materials note that the tests involve fire safety and HVAC and vent systems as well as elevators and escalators up and down 2nd Ave. Additionally, certain escalators and elevators have yet to be installed at 72nd St., but the MTA says these elements of the project will not affect the revenue service date. Haggas, in his report however, noted that “the finish of elevators and escalators and their integration into the station fire alarm system by the end of December remains a concern.”

As this project nears its completion and contractors enter the finishing stages of work, it seems likely that work may bleed into the early part of 2017. So long as the agency doesn’t run into unforeseen problems at this point, even if it misses the revenue service date of December 31, an opening within the early part of the first quarter of next year seems likely. That said, the MTA is facing a lot of pressure externally and internally to deliver this project on time.

Lately, as the MTA has returned street and sidewalk space to the neighborhood around 96th St., many people have asked if they could open part of the project and skip 72nd St. if that station remains the sticking point to a December opening. As now, MTACC has to certify all of Phase 1 complete before handing over control and operations to New York City Transit. With the 7 line, that handoff occurred essentially just before the opening press conference, and it’s an all-or-nothing handoff. If a part of the project — one discrete station — remains incomplete, the entire project is incomplete.

So we’ll wait. The W train, as we learned last week, returns on November 7, the next new crew rotation before the Second Ave. Subway is supposed to open. Will this new subway line, nearly 90 years in the making following this year or early next? We still don’t know, and December 31 is now just 95 days away.



27 Responses to “Testing lags as December opening for 2nd Ave. Subway in jeopardy”

  1. Andrew says:

    It has been 90 years – I won’t be disappointed if it opens a couple of months into 2017.

    Where can I find studies/information relating to the predicted impacts from the first phase opening? I assume fairly immediate relief of congestion on the Lexington avenue line?

    • smotri says:

      I think this link might be of help to you:
      http://web.mta.info/capital/sas_docs/deis.htm

    • TimK says:

      Try this. PDF page 20 and following.

      I found that document here, and there may be more documents of interest on that page.

    • tacony says:

      I’m wondering whether their estimates consider the poor headways on the Q at Phase I opening. A lot of angry people will be sick of waiting 8 minutes packed onto dangerously crowded platforms during rush hours, so I think more will continue to trek to the 4/5/6, even if they’re heading to Midtown West.

      • Caelestor says:

        FWIW, at the height of rush hour, there should be at least 10 Q tph + 2-3 N tph. Since there’s only 4 stations on the extension, overcrowding shouldn’t be too likely.

        • mister says:

          There should be 10 Q tph, but instead there will actually only be 8. And yes, there will be a handful of N trains that go to 96th in the morning, but they will be making their return trips very late into the 8-9am hour, beyond the peak of travel.

      • Nathanael says:

        The 4/5/6 means being packed in like a *sardine*, and it’s at sardine levels when it hits 125th Street going south. By the time you’re getting to 72nd Street, you’ll often have to wait for the second or third train just to find one with enough room to get on, and I see this as a *tourist*, not even at rush hour.

        Anyone from the appropriate part of the East Side will take SAS instead. Period.

        Northbound, the same will happen in order to avoid the hellish crowds on the 4/5/6.

  2. Robert says:

    When Phase I is finally open, will you and/or your blog celebrate this 90 year “saga”?

  3. John says:

    Additionally, certain escalators and elevators have yet to be installed at 72nd St., but the MTA says these elements of the project will not affect the revenue service date.

    I’d be amazed if the MTA’s willing to open a deep cavern station with possibly no elevators or escalators, or only 1-2 escalators at best. The good PR they might get over meeting their current target opening date would be completely offset by stories of delays getting in and out of the station and/or winded passengers walking the 75-or-so feet from platform level to the surface.

  4. JEG says:

    Earlier this summer, the MTA indicated that it was going to spend additional money in order to speed the completion of unfinished items so that the Second Avenue subway could meet the MTA’s December 2016 revenue date. After an initial burst of activity, most mornings for the past month around the 72nd Street station, I’ve seen very few contractors working. There is clearly a substantial amount of work to complete around the station entrances and the ventilation towers, yet day-to-day nothing appears to get done and there seems no urgency, based on the contractor activity, to get things done. As such, it would seem inevitable that there will be delays, but I’m curious as to why there is not more activity.

    • Nathanael says:

      The contractors in NYC are a *problem*. It’s not entirely clear why they’re such slackers, but this has happened repeatedly.

      • Alex says:

        No, it is entirely clear why they are such slackers. When this project is over they will be out of a job so they’re milking the overtime for as long as possible. This happens to literally every major project with Union labor anywhere in the country. The closer you get to the end date the slower they work. It’s not unheard of for some to resort to outright sabotage to keep the gravy flowing.

        • Spendmore Wastemor says:

          In NYC, City Hall (yeah, MTA is technically state) is a more permanent form of organized crime. It’s sort of a public-private partnership.

        • Nathanael says:

          No, it does not happen to every project in the country. It simply does not.

          In many cities, with building booms, the contractors are in a hurry to get finished to move on to the next contract. Bluntly speaking.

          • Tim says:

            Denver is a good example. They’ve built out most of their system at a good pace, and are only now running into funding issues for their Northern line commuter rail. They really got a lot done in a quick amount of time there. They just need to fix their buses now.

        • Brooklynite says:

          The closer you get to the end date the slower they work.

          Oddly enough, the last few years of station rehabs on the BMT South have followed the opposite pattern, with the first few months seeing almost zero work done and then a rush toward the end to make the station usable again. The work itself, if actually blitzed, could probably be done in a fortnight.

        • AMH says:

          It’s more likely that they’re prioritizing other projects that have actual consequences for failure to complete them on time.

  5. Roger says:

    So is it Dec 26 or Dec 31?

  6. Spendmore Wastemor says:

    ” it’s an all-or-nothing handoff. If a part of the project — one discrete station — remains incomplete, the entire project is incomplete.”

    Bull. That’s a bureaucratic tieup, not a physical one. It’s got a hole in the ground, tracks, power and signals. Heck, it’s even got elevators that should work for a day or two.
    Unless the trains will interfere with ongoing work, shuttle the &^%ing thing from 63rd to 96th until the middle is done. Even that will take some load off the Lex.

    • Brooklynite says:

      While the “handoff” thing is obviously bureaucratic BS, fire alarm testing is often left for last on projects like this. In fact, fire alarms delayed the opening of 34th St/Hudson Yards for many months. Even though it’s been done for close to a century, nowadays stations without working fire alarms cannot be opened.

  7. Ferryboi says:

    Dear Manhattanites:

    Quit your goddamned whining.

    Sincerely,
    Staten Island

    • Nathanael says:

      You have an electric high-frequency urban rail line too, you know. Even though you have way less population.

      Though if you live on the north shore, my condolences.

      • Adirondacker12800 says:

        Unless he moved to the North Shore before 1953 he’s got nothing to complain about.

        • mister says:

          That’s akin to saying anyone on the east side who didn’t move there before 1955 has nothing to complain about. There’s no reason to expect the status quo must be maintained.

  8. Although it seems unlikely , I really hope they open on time. The Lex line is severely overcrowded and its getting worse as the city’s population increases. Hopefully they see how beneficial the sas and they’ll start working on phase 2. My only issue with phase 2 is that it should go to the Bronx, it would relieve the lex line and offer another option to Manhattan.

  9. Mike says:

    The union hardworking dudes are not the problem. The union organization folks are the one that strikes too much to get more out of our pocket to afford their bullshit expenses on the expanse of the public money and ours

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