Home East Side Access Project Feds: East Side Access, SAS won’t open until 2018

Feds: East Side Access, SAS won’t open until 2018

by Benjamin Kabak

The federal government is raining on the MTA’s parade again. For the past year, the Federal Transit Administration has warned that the East Side Access Project and Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway would not wrap in 2016 as the MTA predicts. Rather, the government believes the two projects will finish in 2018, around 15 months later than planned and over budget. A new report reiterates that stance.

According to the FTA, East Side Access and the SAS and well behind schedule and significantly over budget. East Side Access, the feds say, will open in April 2018 with a price tag of $8.1 billion while the SAS will enter revenue service in February 2018 and at a cost of $4.8 billion. The MTA maintains these two projects will be completed in September and December of 2016 and at a cost of $7.1 billion and $4.4 billion respectively. The authority did however note that concerns over East Side Access remain.

The MTA disputed the FTA report. “As we have said previously, a project of this magnitude does not come without risks. We continue to work to mitigate those risks, adhere to the current schedule and keep the project on budget,” agency spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

However, the FTA called the pace of the subcontracting work “unacceptable,” and AM New York has more:

The reports show the feds’ continued frustration with the East Side Access project, reiterating its stance on when the first riders will benefit from it — and at what cost. But they did soften their opinion on the management of the Second Avenue subway, saying the team overseeing the project “has been diligent in resolving critical construction issues and avoiding extensive construction delays,” despite its negative projections.

MTA board member Mitch Pally, who sits on the agency’s capital projects committee, said the board is aware of the government’s concerns, but is not convinced the problems are unavoidable. “Obviously we’re concerned about the timing because the quicker we can put this into revenue service, the better it is for the MTA,” Pally said, adding that the agency is trying to find ways to speed up work and trim costs. “We have no plans on waving the white flag until we absolutely have to.”

Charles Moerdler, another MTA board member on the committee that oversees the projects, said he believed the FTA’s reports were “inaccurate,” and called capital construction president Michael Horodniceanu’s work “perfectly magnificent.” “They are doing as good if not a better job than one can reasonably expect,” Moerdler said.

The FTA had nothing to add to their report, according to amNY but further explained that if the MTA “successfully managed and mitigated its risks, the overruns they predict for the projects’ schedules and costs could be reduced.”

As amNew York reports and as I said above, this debate over the timeline truly is nothing new, but it’s not a comforting development. It shouldn’t take 10 years to build three stops of a subway line, and the MTA may have to get its ducks in order to see these projects delivered in time. For now, the warnings and the disputes are out there, and the subway construction will continue seemingly forever and ever.

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Phillip Roncoroni August 22, 2011 - 6:38 am

By the time ESA is completed, LIRR fares will be so high that ridership will be in the toilet. I gave up taking the LIRR about five years ago because of the ever increasing absurdness of the fares.

Chet August 22, 2011 - 6:55 am

It seems odd that the SAS woukd take an additional 15 months when we have both tunnels almost complete, much of the station caverns dug out, and the last contracts about to be awarded.

It is certainly true tgat the project has taken far too long. Ten years should have been enough time to build the whole line from Wall St to 125th St, but regardless of that, the progress we seem to see and the Fed report seems to be in conflict.

pete August 23, 2011 - 8:04 am

The mob needs work. The projects take decades since the construction workers will spend their whole life on 1 project. Pretty good deal for unionized labor and the mob that employs them. Easier to get to the moon than build SAS. They aren’t trying, plain and simple.

Nathanael August 29, 2011 - 1:18 pm

The key delay on SAS is delay in digging one of the station caverns, I forget which one — it’s the one which is behind all the others due to problems with local NIMBYs, and with contractors and subcontractors.

Chet August 22, 2011 - 6:55 am

It seems odd that the SAS woukd take an additional 15 months when we have both tunnels almost complete, much of the station caverns dug out, and the last contracts about to be awarded.

It is certainly true that the project has taken far too long. Ten years should have been enough time to build the whole line from Wall St to 125th St, but regardless of that, the progress we seem to see and the Fed report seems to be in conflict.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines August 22, 2011 - 8:59 am

[…] Feds Say East Side Access, Second Ave Subway Won’t Open Until 2018 (SAS) […]

Mike G August 22, 2011 - 9:01 am

they built 24 miles of the IRT in 4 years, i know work rules have changed there’s more concern about existing surrounding building and infrastructure and they need to build fire systems and ventilation systems, but come on…

Bolwerk August 22, 2011 - 11:19 am

Fair point. Do any of these reports ever talk about what actually can be done to fix the problems? They complain about spending and inflation, but never seem to identify structural changes to the process that can bring costs at least back down into the stratosphere. You’d think at least the Fed would be able to figure that out.

Kid Twist August 22, 2011 - 12:39 pm

Wait … you think the *federal government* can figure out how to bring costs down?

Bolwerk August 22, 2011 - 1:15 pm

Depends who in the federal government. I don’t suppose there’s much reason to be confident in the FTA or FRA. Of course, if they bothered in the first place, they’d probably find something.

pete August 23, 2011 - 8:11 am

Get soldiers. Threaten them with guns and Leavenworth if they don’t work. Threaten officers with pass for promotion if time targets aren’t met. Idea doesn’t work though in USA because of paid, not conscripted army.

Contractor coordination is the best way to pump up the bill on any large-ish construction project.

AlexB August 22, 2011 - 9:30 am

I think the delays for the SAS and ESA just make the point more directly that the whole SAS needs to be planned for and begun ASAP. If we wait until the end of each phase to begin the next phase, it won’t be done until 2040, which isn’t fair to anyone.

ajedrez August 24, 2011 - 6:12 pm

Agreed. A lot of Phase II (I think from 103rd Street to 116th Street) is already complete from the 1970s. If they worked on both Phase I and Phase II at the same time, there’s a chance that both could be completed in one shot, so the (Q) would immediately be extended to 125th Street.

By the way, since the SAS tracks extend as far north as 116th Street, is there a chance that they could build a crossover near the station, so Phase II could be 96th Street-116th Street, Phase III could be 116th Street-125th Street, and Phase IV and V would be south of 63rd Street?

Nathanael August 29, 2011 - 1:20 pm

Agreed. The stations north of 96th St. can just be *built*, but it’s important to get the tunnel to 125th street dug, because that will take time.

Douglas John Bowen August 22, 2011 - 9:39 am

One of the morning’s tabloids — I can’t recall if was AM New York or another similar paper — highlighted this story with a Second Avenue photo, replete with caption emphasizing the construction’s inconvenience to cars and the reduction in lanes.

Real problems and delays? Sure, perhaps beaucoup, as outlined here by Mr. Kabak. But many of the naysayers, per SOP, are kicking at the projects for their impact on their beloved personal infernal combustion engines.

orz August 22, 2011 - 9:45 am

For the rest of the 2nd ave subway to 125th street, they should make the case for closing the street completely, building the subway cut-and-cover, and getting the whole thing done with two years of hell, rather than 10 years of purgatory.

Jason August 22, 2011 - 10:04 am

I think much of phase II is already complete from the work done in the 70’s, so it could probably take even less time that!

al August 22, 2011 - 12:26 pm

I think Phase II is mostly cut and cover. The tunnels are shallow and above bedrock. The tunnel segments up north of E100 St are too shallow and short for EBTBM’s. Apparently they want to use a TBM for the segment near 125th St. Getting a conventional full bore TBM down there to bore a short segment will be expensive.

ajedrez August 24, 2011 - 6:14 pm

Maybe they can make it worthwhile, and when it’s done with the short segment, rather than take it out, they can prepare it to go further west.

Wistful thinking, I know.

Al D August 22, 2011 - 10:57 am

WHo really knows when it will be done, but I like the guy who heads up MTACC. He seems competent and even personable. I bet he is under extraordinary pressure to complete these projects.

Larry Littlefield August 22, 2011 - 11:02 am

I happened to come across at Transit Transit documentary from 2003 about how the MTA rebuilt the 1/9 lines in one year, including the complete reconstruction of 1,400 feet of subway box and the re-outfitting of the rest of the line south of Chambers.

This is a disgrace.

John-2 August 22, 2011 - 11:48 am

It’s like in Los Angeles after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. State officials had been saying it would take years to get the stations and surrounding infrastructure set up to offer rail service from downtown L.A. to the Valencia/Santa Clarita/Palmdale corridor. Actual time to get the system up and running after the quake closed the I-5/Cal. 14 interchange? One week, because in an emergency, the state and federal government waived all the red tape rules that normally would have delayed the project.

The same rule applied to the 1/9 line after 9/11 — if people and the politicians want something enough, it will get done in a hurry, because suddenly the normal red tape-creating rules are bendable. While you don’t want to go back to 1903 safety standards when they were building the IRT Contract 1 line, there is a lot to be said that when the government faults the MTA for it’s slowness in completing the Second Avenue line, it’s other areas of government that assist in making the process slow in the first place.

SEAN August 22, 2011 - 11:57 am

Well said. Rember also the banks control the feds & not the reverse. as a result,money for these projects may not be forthcomeing.

Alex C August 22, 2011 - 2:23 pm

Especially considering that a few portions of the line were built in the 70’s, this is a complete disgrace. Funding should have been allocated and the whole line should have been built by 2014.

Peter August 23, 2011 - 8:38 pm

The portion of the 1/9 that was rebuilt was essentially done so through an area (ground zero) with nothing above it.

Also, they didn’t have to bore anything through bedrock.

Very different beasts.


Second Avenue Sagas: The Transit Museum started selling Second… - The Broker Buddy August 22, 2011 - 11:15 am

[…] color of the line, recycled from the JFK Express train, has helped. Meanwhile, a new federal report repeats the feds’ belief that phase one of the T train won’t be finished until 2018, about 15 […]

Bruce M August 22, 2011 - 5:20 pm

I don’t know why they should even bother to “market” the T-train. Phases 1 & 2 of the 2nd Avenue Subway will only be an extension of the Q-train. There will be no reason to have a T-train until at least phase 3 is built. Any bets on when that will open?

Alex C August 23, 2011 - 12:06 am

When pigs fly. (Swine flu need not apply)

Phil August 22, 2011 - 11:22 pm

Cancel ESA and just save the money and do something else with it. I would LOVE ESA but the fact of the matter is they have botched the entire thing financially speaking that they should just cut the losses and come back to it some other time when there is no red tape.

Frank B. August 23, 2011 - 8:27 am

Honestly, If Phase 3 of the Second Avenue Subway ever opens, I’ll be (pleasantly) surprised.

Kevin Walsh August 23, 2011 - 8:29 am

At 54, I know I won’t be alive, or will be very old, when the entire 2nd Avenue Subway (T train) opens. What a shame.

Frank B. August 23, 2011 - 9:23 am

If it makes you feel any better, At 20, I’d likely be long dead by the time they tunnel to Staten Island or East Queens. 😛

peter knox August 23, 2011 - 10:39 pm

If phase 1 of the SAS is completed in 2018 (and it won’t be, I promise), then the project is not 18 months past the MTA’s announced completion date, it is 8 years beyond it. Is there anyone out there who will please remember that the MTA initially claimed that the project would take 40 months, and therefore would be completed in 2010? It also said that the whole of the SAS, from 125th St. to lower Manhattan, would be finished by 2020. Taxes and fares go up and up in NYC because of corruption and incompetence, and I don’t see either politicians or citizens angry about it.

jj August 24, 2011 - 6:16 pm

I love how supporters keep telling us how great this will be , and it’s way over budget and way behind schedule already — it’s a bad joke already

This won’t run until 2020 at the earliest , will have destroyed hundreds of buisinesses and jobs on Second Avenue , and will be 200% over budget

Richard August 24, 2011 - 7:14 pm

The fine posters on this blog have noted dozens of design decisions, management decisions and business decisions that from the very start put this project way below the standards of the best designed and run projects in the world.

The outrage here is informed and principled. We don’t right now have a way to the core problem. Politicians, industry, the people we rely on don’t have “the right stuff”. Our fore bearers built the the transcontinental railroad, the national highway system, a program to take the a man to the moon. We’ve declined far from our zenith. It’ll take a decade to construct 1.7 miles of subway.

The MTA’s brain-drain problem at the top :: Second Ave. Sagas September 8, 2011 - 1:49 am

[…] Subway and East Side Access project were premature. Instead of a 2016 revenue service date, the FTA expects SAS and ESA to open in 2018. That was not, apparently, the only key finding in the […]

East Side Access completion date postponed to 2018 :: Second Ave. Sagas September 27, 2011 - 1:10 pm

[…] over the East Side Access Project’s rate of progress. With federal officials predicting a 16-month delay, the MTA admitted that it had exhausted its schedule contingency for a variety of reasons. This […]


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