Home Asides MTA announces final contract award for SAS Phase 1

MTA announces final contract award for SAS Phase 1

by Benjamin Kabak

It’s hard to believe — and most long-time New Yorkers still won’t believe it until the revenue service date — that the Second Ave. Subway is finally on the horizon, but it is. Today, the MTA reached a milestone as it awarded the final contract for Phase 1 of the project. For a cool $208,376,000, the 86th Street Constructors Joint Venture will complete the station finishes, mechanical, electrical and plumbing work, ancillary buildings and entrances for the 86th Street Station.

This award is in line with a similar one awarded for the 72nd St. station site earlier this year, and MTA officials are pleased as punch. “We’ve reached the final mile marker for this legendary project and can now see the finish line for Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway. This is a great milestone for the MTA and for all New Yorkers,” Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, said in a statement.

With the $4.45 billion project now approximately 42 months away, the only questions surrounding it involve the future of the entire Second Ave. Subway line. Phase 1 is priced out, awarded and well under way. When do we get started on Phase 2?

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TTF June 13, 2013 - 2:55 pm

Too soon to set the over under on 2118 for phase 2?

Nyland8 June 13, 2013 - 2:59 pm

I’d take the under if you could guarantee I’d still be around to collect.

Jerrold June 13, 2013 - 4:42 pm

Set it for 2159.
Coincidentally, that’s when Bernie Madoff gets out of prison.

John-2 June 13, 2013 - 3:03 pm

““We’ve reached the final mile marker for this legendary project and can now see the finish line for Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway.

Wonder how long it took the MTA’s PR staff to come up with the word ‘legendary’ in place of the more descriptive and more accurate word, ‘nightmarish’.

D.R. Graham June 13, 2013 - 5:45 pm

I believe legendary was used to describe the overall history of the infamous Second Avenue Line from the 1920s up to today.

Nathanael June 17, 2013 - 2:28 pm

Indeed, since the 1920s the “Second Avenue Subway” has been a legend, a myth, a story people told each other. That legend caused this blog to get its name — Ben didn’t really think it would be BUILT when he named the blog, did he?

al June 13, 2013 - 7:25 pm

Legendary is right but not the way PR wanted. By 1995, it was starting to take on a “Legend has it” shine. 2nd Ave subway was part of plans that called for 9 north south trunk lines underneath Manhattan. Today we have 5. 2nd Ave subway would make 6. This is an enormous scope shrinkage. We have 2 (or 5 if you count the tunnels under 53rd, 59th, and 63rd st) crosstown lines out of a proposed total of 10. How would New York look if we had that much service?

Frank B June 13, 2013 - 10:43 pm

Think 12 million people.

Henry June 15, 2013 - 12:09 am

We would have an MTA with financial problems increased by that amount.

Extensions don’t cost nothing after you build them.

Bolwerk June 13, 2013 - 3:20 pm

Look on the bright side. With plenty of phases left to drag feet on building, this blog can stay relevant for decades.

al June 13, 2013 - 7:39 pm

No, more subway please. We need to draft engineers from Barcelona and Tokyo, with politicians who understand affordable housing, cost of living, cost of business, jobs and economic development depends on the infrastructure that support them. We are a rail based community that is in great need of new subway lines. There’s no way around this. Bike share can help in many areas, but 42,000-56,000 passengers per hour per direction for 2 track subway is unbeatable, and is on the scale we need to build and serve 500,000 new residential units affordable to working and middle class New Yorkers.

Bolwerk June 14, 2013 - 12:28 pm

No need to preach to me, but you gotta overcome some pretty hefty learned helplessness and sheer delusion if you want to convince others. Even on Streetsblog, which has ostensibly pro-urbanism readers, if it’s not a bikes or clunky SelectBus, they don’t want to hear about it either because (1) they have an object fetish or (2) are just too unimaginative to think other things are practical.

Henry June 15, 2013 - 12:13 am

I personally think it’s more of a mix of cynicism (when was the last time you saw a subway being built in the outer boroughs?) and an implicit recognition of the fact that no one would want to pay for such a thing. SBS and bikes are cheap – SAS has been anything but.

Bolwerk June 16, 2013 - 9:52 am

Yeah, I’m cynical about that too. On the upside, changing that only requires adopting the practices of modern, developed cities in other countries. OTOH, we aren’t even talking about change either as a city or as a country, and that’s the major problem.

marv June 13, 2013 - 3:28 pm

This has been a multi-billion dollar extension yielding 2 stations.

Could we have not build a midblock elevated rail or busway for far cheaper. Yes each block would have had a short overpass but this does not seem to have hurt 42nd street at tudor city. The Airtrain runs through terminals at kennedy airport without causing noise or disruption.

We need more non-surface routes but if we continue to relay on multi-billion dollar per mile subways they will never be built due to cost.

Benjamin Kabak June 13, 2013 - 3:30 pm

Three stations plus a refurbished stop at 63rd St., but your point still stands.

tacony palmyra June 13, 2013 - 4:24 pm

Three stations that traverse one of the most densely populated parts of the United States, and will see more ridership than almost every other transit improvement in the US. The UES has a reputation of being a quiet, staid neighborhood of rich people who don’t take the subway, but the Census tracts that surround 2nd Ave push 200,000+ people per square mile and they don’t take cabs everywhere.

Alon Levy June 13, 2013 - 7:05 pm

It’s still horrendously expensive. But yeah, there’s so much potential ridership there that even with the highest-in-the-world costs, the cost per rider is low by US standards and only medium-high by European ones.

al June 13, 2013 - 7:50 pm

The question is can we bring the per rider capital cost down to levels justifiable for other projects:

IRT Nostrand Ave Extension
Extending the middle tracks at Houston St under the East River, to North Brooklyn, and west-central Queens
Train to LGA
3rd Ave line in Bx
Double track HBLR, send it over Bayonne Bridge to west SI
6 to Co-Op City.

al June 13, 2013 - 7:52 pm

P.S. I remember the rebuild for the subway at WTC was in the range of $500 million/mile, and JFK Airtrain was $250 million/mile. Can we aim for that?

Henry June 14, 2013 - 9:04 am

If it’s emergency-related work, MTA can do that relatively cost-effectively. If it is a giant project with bells and whistles, then it runs into the giant muck that is the New York construction industry and its lobbying.

Weren’t both of those projects Port Authority, anyways? (Port Authority is a lot better at MTA at controlling costs, WTC PATH not withstanding.)

al June 14, 2013 - 3:29 pm

The 1 train reconstruction under WTC site was MTA.

Nathanael June 17, 2013 - 2:30 pm

Consider the neighboring building owners, who had been refusing to maintain their buildings to seismic standards for decades, with the Department of Buildings issuing citations.

*Somehow*, neither the Department of Buildings nor the building owners ended up paying for the overdue repairs — the MTA had the money extracted by these grifters.

The trouble is that a project like the SAS attracts a lot of grifters, and unless it’s an emergency, in NYC, the grifters get away with it.

Alon Levy June 15, 2013 - 2:45 am

The JFK AirTrain is elevated.

al June 17, 2013 - 11:19 am

I know that. There are places (ie Co-Op City extension) where modern elevated lines are viable.

AG June 17, 2013 - 6:58 pm

Since the MTA is planning on building a Metro North Station in Co-Op City… they probably won’t extend the #6…. at least not in the next 2 decades probably.

Jerrold June 13, 2013 - 4:39 pm

Speaking of 63rd St., look how long THAT project is dragging on!

ALSO, Ben, you consider the December 2016 date to still be realistic? Maybe IT IS, but what is your opinion?

D.R. Graham June 13, 2013 - 5:50 pm

You have to take in consideration the earlier delays in the project which revolved around the planning studies and land acquisitions. We are well beyond those two items so what’s really likely to get in the way of the project finishing on time?

ESA and 7 line to 34th have their own issues if you choose to use them as points of comparison.

Jerrold June 13, 2013 - 6:00 pm

You’re damn right that ESA has its own issues!
But isn’t the #7 extension supposedly on track for a June 2014 completion?

Henry June 14, 2013 - 9:05 am

While missing a subway stop, yes, it’s on track.

Henry June 14, 2013 - 9:06 am

Not to mention, the one contract held up by lawsuits (this one) had the lawsuit thrown out in court a second time, if I’m not mistaken.

I’m pretty sure everyone in the affected neighborhood just wants it done with at this point.

Bolwerk June 13, 2013 - 4:31 pm

This completely misses the point. The underground subway makes perfect sense here. The problem is they can’t seem to get costs to approach what they are elsewhere in the world. If they could, there would be nothing to complain about except, maybe, the fact SAS isn’t quad-tracked.

If they would build an el or busway, they’d blow more money than they should on those things too. We have to fix the fact that things cost more than they should.

Spendmore Wastemore June 13, 2013 - 9:28 pm

You are assuming that cost reduction is a goal of those involved with the project.

David Brown June 13, 2013 - 3:51 pm

I do not expect to be in New York when this occurs, but I can see Phase II starting up when the Feds provide some financing for it (2014 Transportation Bill perhaps?). The key thing is they have the tunnels already completed (Back from the 1970s), so it should be easier and cheaper to finish than Phase I. The key Phase would be III, because with East Side Access bringing the LIRR to Grand Central, riding the Lexington Ave Line will be murder (already the worst is the always packed “4” Train).

Hank June 13, 2013 - 4:49 pm

Has there been any solid estimate of the costs for phase 2? My understanding is that there is only one boring section (125 to 116), with the rest pre-existing or cut and cover.
So if we figure $750m for a new station & $250m for the refurb at 125, could this actually be done for $2b?

D.R. Graham June 13, 2013 - 5:57 pm

Actually three new stations. 125th/Lex doesn’t need a refurb since it was done recently, but building the new station under that already existing bi-level complex has to be the issue. Breaking stairs through to the downtown Lex level as well as taking the existing elevator out of commission and rebuilding it from scratch and having it travel an additional level down. From scratch is necessary just to get rid of the disgusting smells alone.

106th Station is what has to be cut and cover since 105th to 110th was not built back in the 70s.

116th can be built into the existing tunnel that stretches from 110th to 120th. The boring section would be from 120th to 125th.

Henry June 15, 2013 - 2:14 pm

All stations have to be cut-and-cover, since there’s no such thing as a stairway or mezzanine TBM, and MTA has expressed no interest in building stations as egalitarian in size as a Tube station.

Nyland8 June 16, 2013 - 4:33 pm

Uh … no. Stations can be tunnel mined, and often are.

I suspect that, in the case of Phase 2, what will dictate whether the track stretches are done by TBM, C&C or tunnel mining will probably be determined, at least in part, by the preexisting segments.

If they are shallow with lots of columns, as I suspect they might be, then it will be impractical to use a TBM to connect the segments. It’s not worth the mobilization costs to run a TBM over short distances, and too close to the surface is risky.

If it’s done C&C, it will likely be built in staged construction of only one direction – northbound or southbound – at a time. This allows 2nd Ave, to remain open to traffic, and businesses to remain viable. It’s certainly wide enough.

In any case the stations, at least partially located under the sidewalk, might still be tunnel mined. And I think they’re planning 100% ADA compliance – so every station must have elevators located on the sidewalks.

Nathanael June 17, 2013 - 2:38 pm

The existing segments are shallow and basically go all the way to 120th St, with gaps *precisely where* you would put stations.

Therefore, you will see two cut-and-cover stations along 2nd Avenue in *precisely those locations*.

Then the tunnels have to dive, provide bellmouths for proposed Bronx extensions, turn left, and dive under the Lexington Avenue Line to 125th St. Station. That is going to be traditional drill-and-blast, roadheader, or even pickaxe tunnel mining. Cut-and-cover makes no sense for a station which has to be at least three levels down to get under the Lexington Avenue Line anyway.

Nathanael June 17, 2013 - 2:34 pm

Phase II has had cost estimates, but they’re very out of date.

The hard part of Phase II is, bluntly, the tunnel station at 125th, which has to underpin both the (bi-level!) Lexington Avenue Line and the Metro-North viaduct. (Perhaps the former New York Central station in the rock cut can be used as a mezzanine for the new station, though; that would be a cool piece of history.)

The other two stations are really straightforward and frankly should just be built.

AG June 13, 2013 - 5:26 pm

I think the addition to the Lex. Line is overstated. I think. If Penn Station Access takes a good amount away from Grand Central it may not be that bad. That said – it is still a very tight squeeze now. Even this part of the 2nd Ave. should help though because many will just stay on that line. Ppl who stay on the east side would probably walk to Lexington anyway.

Henry June 15, 2013 - 2:21 pm

Taking ESA to downtown is also probably going to be faster, since getting out of Penn can take a long time. If crowding conditions at 34th/Penn on the 7th Avenue Line are any indicator (during the rush, both the local platforms and express platform can be filled to unsafe levels), then Lexington will also see an increase in ridership and overcrowding, exacerbated by the fact that 42nd has a normal local-express station setup.

Coupled with Midtown East rezoning and rising (7) ridership, the Lex is only going to get more crowded, and even at current ridership levels, the Lexington lines will need all the help they can get.

Kevin June 13, 2013 - 6:04 pm

They need to keep the momentum going and at least start some engineering studies on Phase 2.

D in Bushwick June 14, 2013 - 12:05 am

Because Phase 1 will be functional with a Q Train extension, there is less pressure to get the next phase built.
The original proposal is many decades old but Manhattan is very different today with housing in the FiDi and a glut of office space everywhere that may not change anytime soon.
A terminus at Hanover Square makes no sense while the booming Lower East Side is, again, mostly bypassed.
Perhaps a total rethink about the next phase will determine a split SAS that better connects neighborhoods and provides more subway line connections.
And then we can wait and wait…

David Brown June 14, 2013 - 8:09 am

I do not see Hanover Square as the terminus, but Second Ave as the logical spot (Because it does not require a major rebuild, has the 4 tracks, and has been a terminus before (“V” Train)). The idea of “Rethinking” is terrible, because it is exactly what NIMBY’s want, so nothing in their area (or as little as possible) can get done (See Queens). Since likely growth areas will include 125th St, and points North-West (Columbia University Expansion), and The Bronx, because unlike Queens, they want increased expansion and development (Borough President Diaz even wants the Manchester City/Yankees owned Soccer Stadium there).Getting the “Q” up to 125th (Coupled with building new Metro-North Stations in The Bronx (www.dnainfo.com/…/metro-north-expansion-plan-could-bring-1b-bronx…?
) is exactly the right prescription for what is needed for those areas.

Henry June 14, 2013 - 9:12 am

Rethinking is what caused the last effort to fail.

SAS to the LES is not a good idea because of all the infrastructure it would have to dive around, and because if SAS is being “preserved” as a trunk line, an LES diversion is going to destroy any sort of time advantage gained by reducing stop spacing distances.

LES is better served by a light rail loop through West St, 14th St, Essex St, Avenue B, Houston St, Columbia St, East Broadway, and Chambers St.

David Brown June 14, 2013 - 9:52 am

The idea that I would recommend would be turning the awful and slow M-14A Bus route into a dedicated bus route (Like the M-15 bus up and down 1st and 2nd Avenues). If you get on the 14A at Union Square, it has to be at least 5-10 minutes slower than the M-14D bus (The D terminus on Delancey and Columbia Streets is a block and 1/2 walk from the A at Columbia and Grand, and well worth the walk). Beyond that, they are eventually going to built SPURA (replacing those ugly Parking Lots on Delancey with Housing), and obviously the extra people mean…. You guessed it, more crowded and slower busses on the “A” (It is noteworthy to mention, that the “D” is a hike from that part of Delancey, so the bus will not help with the extra passenger issue). As for the other Streets: the (rarely used) M-21 Covers Houston St. It starts on Grand St, and goes down Columbia to Houston, to the West Side. The M-22 (Madison St) covers East Broadway, and goes to Chambers St. Finally the M-9 Covers Avenue B from start to finish. One more point, turning the M-14A into a version of the M-15, would speed up traffic along 14th St (Particularly between 5th Avenue and Avenue A). Basically a no lose situation, which makes too much sense (Which is probably why the politicians and Community Boards are not pushing for it).

Andrew June 14, 2013 - 6:22 pm

SPURA is as close to the F/J/M/Z trains as it is to the M14A. Most SPURA residents going to 14th St. will take the F or M train.

Henry June 15, 2013 - 2:01 am

One word: parking.

Nyland8 June 15, 2013 - 1:42 pm

I don’t see the operation of the Q Line reducing pressure on SAS northern expansion. In fact, it may just increase pressure on implementing Phase 2.

It’s Phase 3 that is problematic. It’s longer; it’s through midtown schist; it has more stations to build; it has no existing tunnel segments to link up with; its only realistic connection to another line won’t happen until it reaches the L at 14th Street; etc;

It will take MUCH longer, and cost MUCH more, and all for relatively little bang for the buck. Phase 3 will be a much tougher sell than Phases 1&2.

Somewhat ironically, Phase 3’s advantages would be enhanced if Phase 2 swept cross-town to 125th & B’way – because it would serve a larger segment of the population bound for the east side.

Henry June 15, 2013 - 4:36 pm

Phase III is to be built to Houston St, so it’ll serve as a direct link to the F at 2nd Av, relieving the Lexington Av Line of people transferring at Bleecker.

It should also be noted that this would be one of the segments serving the LES, which will definitely provide a boon for ridership.

Nyland8 June 15, 2013 - 4:44 pm

Well … if Phase 3 is going that far south, it will take even longer and cost even more than I thought. But connecting to the F Line will serve as more of an incentive to complete it … so there is that.

David Brown June 16, 2013 - 8:31 am

The plan has always been connecting to the “F” at Houston, the “L” at 1st Ave & 14th St, and to Grand Central (because of East Side Access). There is a real need for that connection, because as bad as things are now, the “F” Train is going to be very much like the “Cattle Car” called the Lexington Ave Line, because of projects like SPURA, Cornell at Roosevelt Island and NYU 2031 (The new “super blocks” will be right by Broadway-Lafayette). A “Q” Connection will alleviate that (although more needs to be done (such as the “F” Express coupled with fixing up Bergen St (to add more trains), and the reopening of the Gimbals Passageway (with would really be an easing of the commute to and from Roosevelt Island and the West Side(combined with making the less used “B” Train a local and stopping at 23rd and 14th Streets (obviously fewer people on the “F” is a good thing))). It will be interesting to see what is in the MTA 2015-2019 Plan as it relates to the “F” Train.

Henry June 16, 2013 - 11:32 am

The (F) express will not add trains because of constraints on the Queens Blvd Line. At most, CBTC is adding 10TPH, and at least some of that is going to be 179th St bound (E) trains.

The (B) is not local, not because of usage, but because of track geometry. All lines traveling up Central Park West stay on the express track to reduce switching, because every new switch adds a capacity constraint and a possible new source of delay. It’s also the reason why Bergen is a constraint on the (F) in Brooklyn – the Crosstown line was meant to be the local on Culver, with the (F) running express, and the Bergen switch was never meant to be used in local service.

A *much* better option would be a link between the Second Avenue Subway and the Astoria Line, because a significant amount of passengers use the Astoria Line from the (7) to get to Lexington and transfer. Any Phase III plan should be re-evaluated with this in mind.

Henry June 15, 2013 - 2:22 pm

I’d also like to point out that Hanover Square directly serves the Financial District, and was the penultimate stop on the Second and Third Avenue Els.

Nathanael June 17, 2013 - 2:39 pm

Less pressure? North Harlem will be pushing to get phase 2 built.

Sal F June 14, 2013 - 8:22 am

I wonder if making the Q a crosstown 125th Street train to the 1 has been thought of, or if it would be feasible. Given the recent article about the awfully slow 125th St bus, it seems like it could be useful.

Henry June 14, 2013 - 9:12 am

Sander said something about it while MTA chief, but Sander got turfed out in favor of Walder.

Andrew June 14, 2013 - 6:23 pm

There’s nothing stopping it from being a future extension of Phase 2, and it’s an extension that I think would make a lot of sense.

But there’s no way that Sander would have seen it in his tenure. It’s many years off, at best.

Henry June 15, 2013 - 2:01 am

He did a presentation on the MTA’s hypothetical future for the next 40 years.

Bolwerk June 14, 2013 - 12:23 pm

Maybe when Harlem is whiter and super-rich, which might happen by 2100! The idea of meaningful transit investment for poor blacks probably would offend the sensibilities of every major mayoral candidate and current party boss in power. Since blacks disproportionately suffer high rates of unemployment, their time doesn’t matter very much; therefore, they can live with their slow-as-molasses buses. The important blacks, the ones who get elected in a rubber stamp election, get chauffeured and therefore recognize the vital importance of the automobile.

Alon Levy June 15, 2013 - 2:49 am

Since blacks disproportionately suffer high rates of unemployment

In 2000, 81% of the residents of Harlem who were in the labor force had jobs.

(Sorry, people really need to get out of the “blacks in the US are poor” myth. Blacks are on average poorer than whites; this means there’s an overwhelming majority who are employed and over the poverty line, just a less overwhelming one than for whites.)

Henry June 15, 2013 - 2:27 pm

He was being sarcastic in an extremely over-the-top way.

Bolwerk June 16, 2013 - 10:41 am

What Henry said, and it probably nails the sentiments of the political class pretty well. It’s What Everyone Knows.

I don’t like to, and try to avoid, reducing complex social problems to simple phrases like “blacks r poor.” Still, that 81% figure you cite is pretty much depression-level non-employment (understated, at that) at a time when the economy was supposed to be good. And, you probably know, the “labor force” can be a misleading term – it refers to people seeking work or actively employed, and does not count long-discouraged people who would work if given the opportunity.

Nathanael June 17, 2013 - 2:41 pm

The national average unemployment rate among “non-blacks” is pretty nearly that high. Racial inequality is equalizing in the way we would not have desired (namely, worse situations for most “white” people).

Joseph Steindam June 14, 2013 - 1:53 pm

I know Alon has proposed such an extension in the past, and it would be a very useful stretch of track. If a 125th Street extension made stops that offered transfers with the other stations on 125th Street (Lenox Ave to the 2,3; St. Nicholas Ave to A,B,C,D; Broadway to the 1) you give people in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx an opportunity to make crosstown transfers before reaching Midtown Manhattan. This could result in reducing the load on the 42nd Street shuttle and reduce the congestion at other major transfer stations.

It’s a bit pie-in-the-sky because of the hell we’ve been through to build the section of SAS we’re getting now, plus it would involve actively destroying much of 125th Street for at least a decade. But it would sure provide some good redundancy to the subway network by giving people another crosstown route.

Nyland8 June 14, 2013 - 3:31 pm

Actually, it need have very little impact on 125th Street at all. The portion from 2nd Ave across to B’way is relatively soft earth, easily tunnel mined or TBM’d, requiring very little or no blasting.

The key is to make the extension cross-town when the rest of Phase 2 is being done, so that no large open cuts are required to remove tunneling spoils. If it is done concurrent with Phase 2, it would cost pennies on the dollar. If they have to go back decades from now, it becomes more of a logistical nightmare, closing portions of the busiest business district north of Central Park.

Running cross-town at 125th St. is a good idea – and one that should be vigorously advocated for at the earliest opportunity.

Nathanael June 17, 2013 - 2:42 pm

Good idea. The hard part about it is underpinning all the other subway lines; apart from that it’s a relatively straightforward project.

Larry Littlefield June 14, 2013 - 9:22 am

The good news is at least part of the BMT Broadway extension (none of this SAS stuff for 3 stations) will open before ESA, taking at least some people off the Lex.

Recent disasters, and Fasttrack, highlight the value of redundancy and connectivity. Any city with a future would build to 125th Street, and connect from the BMT to the Rutgers Tunnel, starting as soon as this was done.

JMB June 14, 2013 - 10:58 am

How many tracks were built in the 1970’s for the phase II segment, 2 or 4? If 4, what purpose will these express tracks serve since phase 1 is only 2 tracks?

Larry Littlefield June 14, 2013 - 11:29 am

I believe the 1968 MTA plan had two tracks as well.

Joseph Steindam June 14, 2013 - 1:55 pm

I think only the original plans in the 1920’s and 30’s called for more than 2 tracks. In one case they called for 6 tracks, I forget where exactly, but it would have accommodated connections from the phantom line they wanted to build through the South 4th Street station in Williamsburg through Brooklyn and Queens.


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