Later on Monday, the MTA Board’s committee meetings will meet to discuss the various business before the agency, and one of those meetings — for the Capital Program Oversight Committee — will get an update on the 7 line extension. Shockingly, the MTA isn’t quite right to announce a firm opening date for this project, and it may not be ready for passenger service until early 2015. Will we have hoverboards, flying cars and a Cubs World Series win or the one-stop 7 line extension first?
When we last heard of the delay, The Times explored some reasons for the elusive revenue start date, and this month’s Board materials shed further light on the problems. Notably, the project just isn’t finished. It’s now six months beyond when the MTA had planned to wrap the project, and the 34th Street Station is only 95% complete. Now, it’s true that the station can open prior to 100% completion, but the outstanding problems are significant.
Notably, the Finishes and Systems contract is only 89% completed, and this is the last contract required for completion prior to revenue service. This contract includes the elevators and escalators and the communications system — all of which won’t be tested until July — but the tunnel ventilation system hasn’t passed acceptance testing yet. The project had no contingency built in, and it’s starting to show.
According to the MTA materials, while the elevators have earned headlines, the ventilation fans are more problematic. The fans for certain sites failed factory acceptance, and the contractor is performing additional pre-tests to ensure that certain corrective measures work. Tests are supposed to begin again this month, but we won’t know for a few weeks how this part of the project is progressing. Without the fans, the MTA cannot begin servicing this station.
Meanwhile, the escalators and elevators at the 34th St. site remain an open question. Testing will begin again next month, and the contractors have agreed to speed up work on these elements of the project. This sounds well and good, but while the MTA is remaining vague on the completion date, their independent engineering consultants are now predicting revenue service by February 2015, a full 14 months after then-Mayor Bloomberg’s ceremonial ride back in December. The IEC notes that the MTA’s own December 2014 date relies on accelerated contractor schedules that the contractors haven’t been able to meet. Any slippage will push the opening date back further.
As I’ve noted before, these opening dates won’t matter in a few years once people are passing through this station on a regular basis, the 7 line won’t fulfill its potential until the Hudson Yards project is more fully realized. But the IEC also urges the MTA to consider how this failure to meet promised revenue service dates could impact other ongoing projects. For the Second Ave. Subway, the IEC urges the MTA to conduct a coordinated review to ensure resources can meet revenue service projections. It’s not clear if contractors can fulfill this aggressive schedule either.
So we wait, and the MTA shuffles its feet. It’s important to show to politicians who control purse strings that the MTA can deliver a functional project relatively on time. But right now, this 7 line extension remains a promise and not a reality.