Home Asides At least one part of East Side Access ahead of schedule

At least one part of East Side Access ahead of schedule

by Benjamin Kabak

Every now and then, an MTA press release tickles my funny bone. Earlier this week, eight days after announcing that the East Side Access project would not open until August of 2019, the authority trumpeted its progress. A part of East Side Access is ahead of schedule! Rejoice!

The news concerned some tunneling. Boring for the third of four East Side Access tunnels wrapped up after just nine weeks — seven weeks earlier than planned. The machine, nicknamed TESS, dug for 2200 feet and installed 441 precast, segmented concrete rings as it excavated 875,169 cubic feet of soft soil. “The completion of this tunnel is another reminder that we continue to make tangible and significant progress on this project every day,” Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, said of a project that still has seven years to go.

At least MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota offered up some measure of perspective on this saga. “Each piece of the project that we bring in ahead of schedule means we can dedicate resources to those parts of the project that most need attention,” he said.

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Jerrold June 1, 2012 - 2:34 pm

Where are those tunnels? I thought that the actual TBM work for East Side Access had already finished some time ago.

Larry Littlefield June 1, 2012 - 2:37 pm

“Boring for the third of four East Side Access tunnels wrapped up after just nine weeks — seven weeks earlier than planned. The machine, nicknamed TESS, dug for 2200 feet and installed 441 precast, segmented concrete rings as it excavated 875,169 cubic feet of soft soil.”

Here is what amazes me. Back in the early 1990s, I remember reading assertions that a new age of infrastructure was here due to the speed and cost savings of TBMs, and it was time to build new rail lines as a result.

Well it appears that the TBMs have in fact delivered, not just over in the train yards but under Manhattan. The progress was just as fast with regard to the connection from the 63rd Street tunnel to GCT, and on the Second Avenue.

And still the cost of construction has soared and delays have been enormous. The uptake: don’t blame the Sanhogs and related contractors. Blame all the other contractors, unions and consultants.

Is there some kind of infrastructure we can install by just drilling holes? Underground bike highways perhaps? I stand by my suggestion to build a rail freight tunnel from Ridgefield NJ to the Bronx. Let the Sandhogs did the hole. Let the railroads put a railroad in it. Cut the rest of our contractors out.

al June 1, 2012 - 3:15 pm

9 weeks 2200 ft translates to just under 50′ per day. That is what is to be expected of modern TBM. Higher drive rates are possible, but as tunnels get longer, there is the problem of getting the muck out and precast tunnel lining in.

Linear construction method, where large diameter tunnels are bored, lined, and built out like a assembly line, would shorten total construction time. Each team does its job and moves forward leaving the teams behind to build upon the previous work. It works best on a long project as it reduces the need for costly launch boxes. You use precast caisson, secant pile, ground freezing, jet grouting and roadheader technology for station build out.

Ramiro June 1, 2012 - 4:11 pm

I believe all the TBMs in the ESA, SAS, and 7 Line extensions wrapped up their tunnel weeks and in some cases months ahead of time.

Just imagine if that wasn’t the case, how much costs overruns there would be.

Larry Littlefield June 1, 2012 - 4:16 pm

Right, so why are we in this mess? I guess a big part of it is mining up to the street, though the infrastructure, for stations, emergency access, ventilation, etc.

Still, what a false promise the TBM has been for New York infrastructure — even though it worked. I wonder how they handle those other things in other countries?

al June 1, 2012 - 5:04 pm

The designs we have for ESA, 2nd Ave Subway and West Side 7 extension do not fully take advantage of TBM construction. We have short bores. They should have bored out phase 1 and 3 tunnels with a mole with precast tunnel liners to reduce site cast concrete issues.

Nathanael June 4, 2012 - 7:44 pm


(1) Utility relocation. The utility stuff took a really long time and was a big mess. Even London’s had trouble with this, but they have much more aggressive rules whereby the government can tell the utility companies exactly what to do and they have to do it.
(2) Unsound buildings. Department of Buildings didn’t do its job and neither did landlords; they waited until they could make the MTA do their job for them.

On South Ferry:
(1) Total contractor malfeasance.

On East Side Access:
(1) Turf wars and inability to coordinate between LIRR and Amtrak (mostly LIRR’s fault) and failure to even try to pay attention to this on the part of the contractors and MTACC.

UESider June 2, 2012 - 6:10 pm

only question is: ahead of What schedule?

when you extend your timeline by 8 years, claiming anything is now ahead of schedule is laughable

it would be impressive if they just did the work ON schedule

this doesnt qualify as “ahead” of schedule.

guarantee these guys a paycheck every week for 10 years no matter how long the work takes and it would be done in a year and they’d all get a 9 year vacation while we got our subway/train tunnel “ahead of schedule” and everyone would be happy

(except that we would then be groaning about their 9 year vacation, but at least we could do it on our new train, in a new tunnel with revenue service and probably opto, wifi and waterproof stations)

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