In April, an imposing blue wall pointed the way into the Columbus Circle station. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
The Columbus Circle station is, in a word, a mess right now. Undergoing a massive renovation, the station is dirty, hot, dusty and impossible to navigate. While this should be the state of things at 59th St. for at least the better part of the next year, the MTA celebrated a milestone in the construction yesterday when a new entrance opened at 60th St. and Broadway.
For the celebration, the MTA broke out the ribbon-cutting scissors, and MTA CEO Executive Director Lee Sander did the honors. As this entrance opens, the one on the island in the middle of Broadway closes, and the MTA tells us more about this new entrance and the final plans — with their 42-month timeline and $108-million price tag — for the station:
The new 60th Street control area cost $14 million and was carved out of solid rock made up of the well-known Manhattan schist while a vast array of street utilities were suspended from the decking beams. Those utilities included 20-inch and 32-inch city water lines, a 20-inch Con Ed steam line as well as numerous smaller electric, gas and fiber optic lines. The entrance, which includes two new street-to-platform level staircases and a MetroCard Vending Machine, was newly constructed under concrete decking, which minimized the disruption to street traffic on southbound Broadway.
“Funding for transportation is a scarce commodity, but we are doing everything we can with the resources we have available to improve the experience our customers have with us,” said Elliot G. Sander, the Executive Director and CEO of the MTA. “Whether it is a much needed new subway entrance or the initiation of Select Bus Service, we are committed to improving customer service.”
“This station rehabilitation project and particularly this new entrance are examples of the difficulties NYC Transit faces when upgrading what is an aging system,” said NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “Despite the complexities of the construction, we have delivered to the customers who use this station a new, modern entrance which will provide additional egress capacity for the more than 69-thousand people who use the station daily.”
In the end, the renovated station will feature an elevator at one of the Central Park West access points and three new staircases along Broadway. Both platforms levels will be overhauled, and the now-abandoned central platform on the A/B/C/D level will be restored to use.
For many, the current state of the station is a major inconvenience. It’s not a pleasure to navigate through Columbus Circle right now. But in the end, it should be worth it. With the Time Warner Center and CNN occupying what had been largely unused real estate at Columbus Circle, this popular station has become more overrun with people, and the MTA, beleaguered and beaten, is doing all it can to modernize this station. Now if only they could do something about the other 467 at the same time.