Updated (2:28 p.m.): Just yesterday I reported that the tunnel-boring machine was approaching the end of its western run, and today, the MTA announced that ADI, the TBM digging out the long-awaited Second Ave. Subway, reached that terminus over the weekend. Ben Heckscher at The Launch Box reports that the run was completed at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The construction crews will now disassemble the TBM, pull it back out along the tunnel and reassemble it in the launch box for another run down Second Ave. The authority hopes to start digging the eastern tunnel by April with an estimated completion date by the end of 2011.
“Construction of this much-needed subway continues to move forward and this week marks another major accomplishment to transform New York as we know it,” MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu said in a statement. “These are tangible results that will not only expand our capacity but will also bring new economic activity and growth to Manhattan’s Upper East Side and points beyond.”
During the western run, the TBM dug 7162 feet down Second Ave. but did not reach the existing tunnel at 63rd St. due to a curve too sharp for the TBM’s turning radius. The two tubes will be connected by blasting and digging work set to be done by the company tasked with building the 72nd St. station. The eastern run of the TBM will end at 63rd St. though because the curve from 63rd St. and Third Ave. to the straight shot up Second Ave. is shallow enough for the TBM to make it.
Of course, once the TBM runs are finished later this year, the hard work will only just begin. There is, after all, a reason why the Second Ave. Subway isn’t slated to open until nearly five years after the tunnel-boring machiens are through. Work crews will have to begin the arduous process of building out station caverns and modernized subway stations, constructing ancillary buildings and finishing the tunnels themselves. The completion of the first TBM is a major milestone for a project that has come to symbolize governmental inaction and ineptness over the past eight decades, but it is a small step on the way toward a new subway line.
Meanwhile, The Launch Box has some stunning photos inside the the western tunnel. Take a look at Part 1 and Part 2. The shots show the detail of the tunneling work, sandhogs working near the TBM cutter head and the muck produced by Adi as she heads south. These are truly stunning shots.