Home Second Avenue Subway Carolyn Maloney and the Second Ave. Phase II Sagas

Carolyn Maloney and the Second Ave. Phase II Sagas

by Benjamin Kabak

Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway project extends the route north to 125th St. and west to Lexington Ave.

In last night’s post, I delved into Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Second Ave. Subway report card and issued a call for someone to take on the mantle of championing Phase II of the four-part project. Maloney and her office took exception to my angle, and yesterday, I’ve learned that Phase II may be inching closer toward a reality than we previous knew. Perhaps, it has one of its funding champions already in place.

In response to my article, Maloney issued the following statement:

“I appreciate your attention to my report on the Second Avenue Subway; however, you are mistaken to suggest that I am not paying attention to the need to move seamlessly from Phase I to Phase II. I sent a letter on June 11, 2013 requesting information about what the MTA is doing to plan for Phase II. They responded to me on June 21, 2013 confirming their commitment to moving seamlessly to Phase II. On June 21, 2013, I met with then Acting Chairman of the Board Fernando Ferrer and others regarding the need to move to Phase II. And, my report makes clear that the next report will take a closer look at what the MTA is doing to plan for Phase II.”

I’ve had the opportunity to view Maloney’s letter and current MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast’s reply. It bodes well for the future of the project. “With completion of Phase I in sight,” Maloney wrote, “it is time to turn our attention to Phase II. I want to make sure the MTA is beginning to put together its funding so that it can begin to build Phase II as soon as Phase I is completed. I would like to see a seamless transition between the first and second phases of the project.”

Maloney went on to ask the questions she should be asking. Has the MTA approached the Federal Transit Administration for funding assistance? What requests for Phase II money will be in the 2015-2019 capital plan? What design work, if any, is required before the MTA can execute a full funding grant agreement with the feds?

In a response, the MTA pledged to Maloney that it also is “working toward a seamless transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2.” This is, as far as I can tell, the first real recognition from the agency that it should and will be looking to expand the Second Ave. Subway at least as north as 125th St. While the Phase 2 price tag is similar to that of Phase 1, the work is easier. Much of the tunnel segments exist, and the engineering challenges that the project faces south of 63rd St. do not exist.

Prendergast updated Maloney on the progress of Phase 2 planning. “Currently,” he wrote, “the MTA is in the process of reconfirming the Phase 2 alignment that was included in the 2004 Final Environmental Impact Statement and included in the Record of Decision. This analysis, which considers lessons learned in constructing Phase 1 as well as changes to land use and population that may have occurred since 2004, will help us determine whether additional environmental review is needed and also will inform the Phase 2 cost estimate. Once we have a better understand of what, if any, changes will be needed from the project evaluated in the FEIS, we will begin more in depth discussions with the Federal Transit Administration.”

The MTA, Prendergast said, will reveal further plans for the Second Ave. Subway when it finalizes its Twenty-Year Needs Assessment later this fall. It is likely that the twenty-year plan will include the full Second Ave. line from the Seaport to 125th St., but Phase 2 — north from 96th St. to East Harlem — could begin in the earlier part of that two-decade window.

We could debate the relative merits of breaking up the Second Ave. Subway project into phases for hours. It is a move that likely will see costs exceed what they should have been, but it was also a move that allowed Phase 1 to move forward. Will that initial section essentially on auto-pilot, MTA planners should be moving forward on Phase 2, and if Maloney, a representative from the area who has come to recognize the subway’s benefits, can serve as a prod and champion, so much the better.

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Walt Gekko July 31, 2013 - 1:36 am

The big change I would make to Phase 2 potentially extend it (possibly as a Phase 2A) all the way across 125th Street that would take the line to most likely an elevated station at 12th Avenue-Broadway with connections to ALL of the other lines that run across 125th AND if such were underground, also having a connection to the 8th Avenue line at 125th Street that would give the MTA much greater flexibility.

While for now a connection to the 8th Avenue line might be simply used for train moves, it also allows for instance the MTA the ability to run Yankee Stadium specials from the SAS as well as being able to when necessary send 6th and 8th Avenue trains onto the SAS when needed for G.O.’s and the like, as well as if warranted running an SAS line to either extreme upper Manhattan or the Bronx.

Going all the way across 125th would give the MTA a lot of flexibility, plus provide subway access from the east side to Columbia University, which by the time such a line reached 125th Street-12th Avenue would likely have completed its expansion.

D in Bushwick July 31, 2013 - 11:43 am

Yes, extending Phase 2 all the way to the 1 Train at Broadway and the new Columbia campus would get far more rider bang for the buck. By connecting all the north-south lines would allow anyone going to and from north of Midtown an easy connection to any destination near 2nd Avenue. It’s all about adding connections which increasing rider options.
Traffic, especially for buses, is nuts on 125th and a subway here makes a lot of sense.

Nathanael March 26, 2014 - 3:11 pm

Let me be the first to suggest an extension all the way past Broadway to the West Harlem Piers. Actually, stage the entire tunnel from the water, spoil removal & all.

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 1:09 pm

By any chance if people look at the topography of 125 St end to end? MTA will never do 125 St Crosstown subway.

Benjamin Kabak July 31, 2013 - 1:26 pm

The topography of 125th St. from 2nd Ave. to Broadway is essentially level. You’re confusing it with the topography of Broadway from 116th to around 137th which isn’t level. You could easily dig a subway underneath 125th St.

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 2:15 pm

MTA will still never do a 125 St crosstown with large NIMBY crowd and the lack of funding.

Benjamin Kabak July 31, 2013 - 2:24 pm

Is the large NIMBY crowd on 125th St. somehow worse/louder/more important than the people not getting their ways at Yorkshire Towers? That’s not a valid excuse.

Funding, on the other hand, is.

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 2:42 pm

Business along 125 St and probably Al Sharpton will make some nose. Look at the opposition of the M60SBS. Not in my or your lifetime to see the 125 St crosstown subway in reality.

Alon Levy July 31, 2013 - 3:57 pm

Neither of the two stakeholders you mentioned made noise against M60 SBS. The opposition came from the We Must Preserve Parking people, from Perkins (who had no real reason for it), and from Jackson (who’s pissed that the only route that got SBS was the M60); DOT then decided to also drop the bus lanes, which Jackson said nothing against.

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 4:39 pm

Its actually the community boards did not have full support for the M60SBS.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:17 pm

CB9 and CB10 are barely run – they complained about a lack of DOT outreach. DOT did do outreach, but apparently there were only one or two people at the DOT meetings from the transportation community, let alone the full board.

Karm July 31, 2013 - 5:55 pm

sharpton is on 145th…not 125th

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 6:58 pm

Businesses shouldn’t be adversely affected at all. In fact, businesses should see nothing but improvement with a cross-town subway under their feet.

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 7:14 pm

hence, it will never be built in the future.

Ben August 1, 2013 - 6:23 pm

True, but most people think in the short-term, not the long-term. There’s no question that businesses are harmed in the short-term by construction, though the MTA does try to cover those losses.

Nyland8 August 1, 2013 - 11:25 pm

But the point is that businesses need not be adversely affected … at all. They wouldn’t even know what’s going on beneath their feet. Neither would their customers. The tunneling would be done below the depth of the existing north/south trunk lines – not cut&cover. You could never do 125th St cut&cover. You’d put everyone out of business.

No … the only time anyone on 125th St. would notice is when street vents were installed – or, if they were taking the subway, when they broke through the walls of the station below. There needn’t even be any blasting, because the bedrock there is deeper than the subway would be.

But the key to doing it that way is to do it at the same time as Phase II – because that’s when you’d already be set up to remove the tunneling spoils out the back end of the tunnel. If you attempt to do it after Phase II is completed, then you encounter all the re-mobilization costs, have to open up the street for a launch box, have to cue dump trucks somewhere to remove the spoils, etc.

It’s really only practical as an addition to Phase II. If you call it Phase V, then you’ll run into lawsuits, NIMBYs, and probably quadruple the price.

Nathanael March 26, 2014 - 3:14 pm

Mobilize the entire operation from the Hudson River end.

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 6:57 pm

There is no large NIMBY crowd – because you’d never C&C across 125th St. It would all be TBM, with tunnel mining near the stations, and for sidewalk vents.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:22 pm

If anything, the earthquake fault under 125th could be an issue, even though it’s not particularly active (although you never really know with earthquakes – dormant fault lines can rupture, too)

Nyland8 August 1, 2013 - 4:48 pm

The earthquake fault might be an issue … but if it shifts, it’s biggest impact will be to the lines that cross it transversely. In other words, the A,B,C,D,1,2,3,4,5 and 6 lines. Those are the ones likely to shear in some plane, perhaps displacing tracks in one axis or another.

But if that fault really lets go, the impact on the subways will be the least of our problems. So much of the un-reinforced masonry in the area could simply crumble. I wouldn’t want to be in one of those faux-Brownstones if the big rumble comes.

Henry August 2, 2013 - 12:33 pm

One could argue that the subway would probably prove more of a risk, since if it caves in it takes the street above with it. But I digress.

Nyland8 August 2, 2013 - 6:49 pm

LOL … No. There’s not enough overburden for that. But what one could rightly argue is that any quake strong enough to actually collapse a tunnel built to new seismic codes would collapse, or partially collapse, 20% or more of the un-reinforced masonry structures for at least a few square miles. What’s that? A few thousand buildings? To say nothing of shearing glass off the skyscrapers downtown. Of all the things to worry about in that size quake, the subways – any of them – would be the least of our problems. And the older tubes would suffer worst.

But I progress.

John-2 July 31, 2013 - 2:07 pm

At the very least, they could do a crosstown link to St. Nicholas Avenue, since the topography there is still gentle enough so the IND was able to keep the Eighth Avenue subway underground, as opposed to the elevated 1 train trestle over Manhattan Valley (getting it over to there would also permit a connection to the line north of 125th Street, where the six-track layout already is in place. Even if the Q/T ended at 125th and Eighth, a connection would permit far greater flexibility for emergency re-routes or Fastrack detours off the Washington Heights and Concourse lines).

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 2:40 pm

By at least, St. Nick Av for A, B, C, D subway lines… I could see that. No way that SAS can go up to the 1 subway line with that huge dip.

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 7:01 pm

There is no dip. None whatsoever. They could tunnel all the way to the Cotton Club – easy as pie.

Ben August 1, 2013 - 6:28 pm

125th St is pretty much totally flat all the way to Broadway. The issue would be building an in-system connection between the elevated 1 train and the Q/T way underground. It’s certainly possible, though; pretty much the same layout exists at 4th Ave/9th St in Brooklyn connecting the R deep underground and the elevated F/G.

Ben August 1, 2013 - 6:30 pm

Also at Roosevelt Avenue in Queens between the elevated 7 and the E/F/M/R underground. So, yeah.

Nyland8 August 1, 2013 - 11:28 pm

There are a number of places throughout the system that are like this – including Yankee Stadium, where the B/D station sits under the shadow of the 4 Line.

Nathanael August 5, 2013 - 7:53 pm

Heck, keep going and terminate at the Hudson Line with a connection to a new 125th St. station for Metro-North services to Penn Station. 🙂

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 2:57 pm

Actually, its not feasible to do 125 St Crosstown since around Lenox Avenue subway tunnel its below the water table.

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 7:14 pm

You’ve managed to find yet another non-reason. Do you make them up as you go along?

Tunneling 125th St. is perfectly feasible. In fact, compared to most of the SAS, it would be easy. And certainly much easier than tunneling the East River.

Whatever your agenda is, nobody who knows tunneling is buying your pitch.

Epson45 August 1, 2013 - 1:16 am

Do some research, the area around Lenox Av subway tunnel is below the water table and have been documented in the 90s. So?

Nyland8 August 1, 2013 - 7:13 am

So !?!? So what???

Do some research. When you’re not working above ground, when you’re not installing any new stations at street level, and where no blasting is likely, there is no “large NIMBY crowd” in opposition to plans.

Do some research. There is no dip.

Do some research. There are tunnels all over the city that are below the water table. We’ve been tunneling below water tables for generations.

Do some research. Look up the definition of the word “feasible”.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:20 pm

Most of the new tunnels being built have been built below the water table (Water Tunnel No. 3, ESA, SAS). The 63rd St tunnel was built by sinking concrete to the bottom of a riverbed.

The water table is a non-issue when it comes to tunnel construction – otherwise, none of the Netherlands would have tunnels or foundations for buildings.

Alon Levy July 31, 2013 - 4:09 pm

The elevation at 125th and St. Nick is the same as at 125th and Broadway. The reason the IND stayed underground is that the dip on CPW/St. Nick from the Upper West Side to 125th is gentler than the dip on Broadway from Morningside Heights to 125th is not. The difference is about the elevation at 116th, not at 125th. Any crosstown train that can get to 125th and St. Nick can and should continue to Broadway, for the transfer to the 1 and Morningside Heights.

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 6:53 pm

No. Actually, that’s what would make it easy. Both the topography and the geology are as good as it gets for a cross-town tunnel at 125th St.

Further south is no good. Further north is no good.

125th Street is the perfect place.

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 7:15 pm

there is the water table issue.

Nathanael August 5, 2013 - 7:54 pm

Not an issue.

Karm July 31, 2013 - 5:54 pm

no – it should go up into the Bronx and replace the old 3rd Ave. El that was torn down.

Duke July 31, 2013 - 8:08 pm

From a pure planning perspective that ignores funding and politics, I don’t see why not both. The Q can go crosstown on 125th while the T goes up Third Ave

Karm August 1, 2013 - 8:22 am

In a perfect world… certainly… but in this world funding and politics always matter.

I see a lot of back and forth as to how feasible it would be to go across 125th… but it should go up 3rd Ave. in the Bronx… but hit Webster Ave. earlier and go up to at least Fordham Rd. – if not back to Gun Hill Rd. as before. Since the Bronx usually gets crumbs though… I guess the Bronx should be happy with the proposed 4 new Metro North station (which is a useful project also).

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:24 pm

You could probably phase the Third Av line as such – 125th to 149th, 149th to Fordham, and Fordham to Gun Hill Rd (or wherever it terminates).

AG August 3, 2013 - 12:25 pm

it used to go up Gun Hill… there is not as much traffic passed Fordham (where the DOT is re-doing the plaza)… but the cit just rezoned east Fordham Road and Webster (between Fordham and Gun Hill) to take advantage of the institutions that anchor that corridor – Montefiore Hospital – Fordham University – New York Botanical Gardens – Bronx Zoo.

BruceNY July 31, 2013 - 2:27 am

Having read many of the comments from yesterday’s post about Congresswoman Maloney’s report, I must say that as a long time resident of the East Side I believe she has done much to have gotten the 2nd Avenue subway project rolling. She organized several meetings as far back as the 90’s with the community and brought in MTA brass and made them listen to us residents. She was a vocal proponent of this project in Congress, and deserves credit for securing some of the Federal funding without which this project could not be built.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 9:07 am

Looking back at those comments, its hilarious how so many posters just lay it on her just because she’s a politician.

SEAN July 31, 2013 - 11:07 am

Well, considering all of the political scandals in the past few years, it’s easy to draw such a conclusion even if she doesn’t deserve it.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 11:20 am

That would be known as stereotyping.

Eric July 31, 2013 - 12:22 pm

Stereotyping based on your choice (i.e. of career) is much less bad than stereotyping based on characteristics you were born with (i.e. race).

Blue August 2, 2013 - 10:31 am

“Much less bad” = still bad

Alon Levy July 31, 2013 - 4:10 pm

Wake me up when federal support for SAS Phase 2 makes it to any bill that even gets taken up by committee. Let’s see it become part of a bill that’s in the Democratic agenda – even if the GOP kills it – before praising her for doing something.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:27 pm

In general, the New York delegation has been good about securing funding for local transit projects, as well as securing money for a study of the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel. They’re also some of the more senior members in Congress from each party (Rep. King and Sen. Schumer.) Add in the likely favorable cost per rider, and you’ve got something that is eventually going to happen assuming the House doesn’t torpedo everything to bits (which it very well might, considering they vetoed a bill from their own party thinking it was a Democrat-sponsored bill.)

Bolwerk August 2, 2013 - 1:29 pm

King is stupid and insane to the point of being useless. Many authoritarian parties might be be delusional enough to stick a known terrorist sympathizer on an ostensibly anti-terrorism committee, but the Republikans are nutty enough to go so far as to make him chairman.

Schumer may not believe in the spooky stuff King does, but he really isn’t much better than an influence peddler who sometimes brings home the bacon. Not exactly problem solving.

marv July 31, 2013 - 4:03 am

I still do not understand why the SAS is turning west at 125th Street. I believe that it would best if it scontinue north into the Bronx then split with:

*one branch constructed next to and/or over the Bruckner Expessway to and then over the Throgs Neck Bridge approach providing service to the non-served southeast Bronx

*the other branch following the North East Corridor up to and terminating at the New Rochelle Metro North station.

On the North East Corridor branch:
*an extra fee/premium fare should be charged to those entering and exiting at New Rochelle.
*A Coop City Station should be built. A horizontal elevator/monorail (one track and car set only operating back and forth) should link the station and one or two stops in the heart of Coop City.

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 6:28 am

“I still do not understand why the SAS is turning west at 125th Street.”

I believe because its primary driving force is not to promote greater ridership from uncharted territories, so much as it is to relieve some of the southbound burden on the 4,5,6 Lines – which already pulls ridership from throughout the Bronx. Connecting to the Lex does that – and without building yet another East River crossing.

martindelaware July 31, 2013 - 7:36 am

If you look closely at the map, there’s a little stub extending north where SAS Phase 2 turns west. That stub will contain switches and tail tracks allowing a future northward extension to the Bronx (call it Phase 5). When Phase 5 is completed (at some point during my great grandchildren’s lifetimes), some trains will turn back at 125th/Lex while others will continue to and from the Bronx.

SEAN July 31, 2013 - 9:38 am

It could be extended to The Bronx sooner if the real estate lobby pushes hard enough. Development oppertunities if exploited can have a mesurable impact on transit expantion. There are numerous examples of this effect all over the tri-state area.

Benjamin Kabak July 31, 2013 - 9:39 am

The real estate lobby, as they made explicitly clear last night, view SAS as a vanity project and would rather support investments like the 7 line instead. I’ll have more on that later, but it is a literally moronic line of thinking. Anyway, my point is that they won’t support SAS to the Bronx for that reason.

SEAN July 31, 2013 - 10:13 am

Did I miss something?

A single station extention to West 34th Street brings utility no doubt, but an extention of the 2nd Avenue subway to The Bronx & or Columbia has so much more potential that the impact couldn’t be mesured.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 10:20 am

I can see the logic to that. Real estates people want subway lines to new and attractive neighborhoods. The 7-line does that because it serves a up-and-coming high-end and gentrified neighborhood.

Bronx and Harlem are not nearly as attractive in terms of real estates, and in addition they are already well served by mass transit so the boost to value won’t be nearly as noticeable.

Bolwerk July 31, 2013 - 10:59 am

Real estate people should shove it. The only people who count are users. Pent up transit demand in Harlem shouldn’t be left atrophied on crosstown buses because a few rich people want to make more money on the far west side.

Maybe the ridership isn’t there for a subway, but the wishes of real estate people is no excuse.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 11:13 am

The topic is whether the real estates lobby can push through a new subway to the Bronx. What you said may be true but is not going to get that line built. There’s the ideal world and then there is the real world.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 7:55 pm

The real estate only had the pulling power to create the 7 line extension because Bloomberg was hyping up an Olympic bid which nobody wanted, and because he doesn’t care for anyone who isn’t a developer or a donor. Even then, REBNY didn’t have enough power to try and force through 41st/10th. So the real estate lobby can, indeed, shove it unless they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is and help fund a subway project.

SEAN July 31, 2013 - 11:26 am

Transit expantion & real estate development go hand & hand. Somewhere along the line people in both political power & in the real estate field have forgotten that importent lessen. Some have relearned it all be it the hard way & others never learned it’s importence. However for the region to move foward, those skills must be remasterd. Truth is deep inside everyone knows it even if they don’t verbalize it.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 7:57 pm

Real estate development is the tail that wags the dog. Likewise, real estate should be taking a back seat. If we built a subway line for every developer who wanted one, we’d be bankrupt.

Karm July 31, 2013 - 5:57 pm

the “users” have never paid to build subways

John B August 1, 2013 - 9:54 am

wow thats quite a faulty statement. just who ultimately backs those pretty municipal debt bonds the mta is fond of using to build these extensions?

Karm August 1, 2013 - 7:44 pm

john b – the average user does not invest in those bonds…. even the Brooklyn Bridge was originally built by a corporation that was only partially government owned.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 7:52 pm

The MTA is able to bond based on projected revenues, and riders pay 77% of operational expenses, the most of any agency in North America.

We’re also paying the debt service, which is a growing chunk of the budgets. To say we don’t pay for building the subways is at best, misleading.

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 12:46 pm

They are not “well served” cross-town. There is no cross-town subway north of Central Park.

125th Street would be the most logical location for one, with Manhattan just as wide there as downtown. Every north/south subway has a stop there, and it would give west-siders access to the east side – and vice-versa.

The time to continue west along 125th Street is during Phase II. Due to mobilization, connection and elimination of spoils issues, the price of doing it later will more than triple.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 4:50 pm

Its well-served from the sense that anyone who needs to take a subway to get to that area can do it. Its not well-served from a convenience standpoint but that’s a totally separate topic of discussion and not what I was talking about.

Karm August 1, 2013 - 8:25 am

just leave it at “high end”… because anyong in Hell’s Kitchen or Hudson Yards has as much acccess even right now as someone in Harlem… and even better than someone in certain parts of the Bronx. Transit access is never a good argument for anyone in Manhattan… nowhere in the U.S. comes close to rail coverage.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:33 pm

Actually, the 3rd Avenue corridor in the Bronx has both out-of-date housing stock and is far from subway access. With the Bronx slowly gentrifying as well, and just general quality-of-life improvements there, a subway could provide the last kick needed to start development in the Bronx again.

alen July 31, 2013 - 10:08 am

too much traffic and parking problems on 125th

Bolwerk July 31, 2013 - 10:54 am

As I understand it, there will be a layup facility pointing toward The Bronx, which acts as a provision for a future Bronx connection.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:30 pm

The western leg is to provide easier access to the MNRR and 4,5,6 station, so that Lexington riders can transfer to the SAS.

If you look at Google Earth, 125th and 2nd also dumps you into the onramps and offramps for the Triboro, and there’s not as much developable land there that could be used to provide passengers for a transit extension. So there’s that.

martindelaware July 31, 2013 - 7:32 am

This is the first time that I’ve noticed the “Barge Facility” south of the Hanover Square station in the phasing diagram. Does anyone know what that is?

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 8:35 am

I’ll take a guess. Since the legend says Tunneling “from” Hanover Square “to” Houston St, it means that there would have to be some way to remove tunneling spoils. I suppose they don’t want an army of dump trucks running throughout the financial district.

Shuttling them to a nearby barge might be the solution.

Clarke July 31, 2013 - 12:00 pm

Barge information discussed in Ch. 3 of the FEIS http://www.mta.info/capconstr/.....pter03.pdf

“In Lower Manhattan, an option to remove spoils by barge is being considered as part of the plan for building Phase 4 of the Second Avenue Subway. Additionally, a site on Water Street would
be needed to remove spoils generated by construction of the Hanover tail tracks, and excavation of the portion of the alignment north to Houston Street. Pier 6. Barges could operate from Pier 6 (Site O), the East River barge site near Coenties Slip that was recently used to remove debris from the World Trade Center site (see Figure 3-14). (The barging facilities used for that recovery effort have been removed.) Tunnel spoils would be removed from a shaft at the southern terminus of the alignment on Water Street near Coenties Slip (Site P) and conveyed to the Pier 6 barge site, where they would be removed by barge. At Pier 6, a docking facility for several barges would be operated.” (starting at page 3-41)

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 6:31 pm

It was an educated guess.

Larry Littlefield July 31, 2013 - 7:42 am

The turn to 125th Street allows transfers from MetroNorth and the Lexington Avenue Line. This does two things:

1) Allows MetroNorth riders to access the institutional job base on the Upper East Side, which has 200,000 employed.

2). Allows the Second Avenue Subway to become an alternate to the Lex south of 125th Street for Bronx riders. That is a protection against a disastrous disruption, and an aid to Fast-track.

In fact, Fastrack is one of the best arguments for this project going forward, and right now. But why so much money?

John-2 July 31, 2013 - 9:48 am

Presumably the costs involved are going to be linked to underpinning the 4/5/6 and making the in-station connections without disrupting Lex service. But it will be interesting to see the cost breakout, given how much of the Phase II tunnel section is already completed and awaiting only the station boxes and infrastructure.

Nathanael August 5, 2013 - 7:58 pm

The 4/5/6 is stacked at this location, I believe. So three underground layers. SAS has to turn left from a shallow alignment, go down, branch for the turnouts to a future Bronx line, and then go under these three layers of the 4/5/6, which have to be underpinned. That sounds to me like the big cost driver.

Joseph July 31, 2013 - 7:51 am

What engineering challenges are faced below 63rd street that aren’t or haven’t already been faced? Seems to me the problem with Phase 3 is money-5 stations is going to cost maybe $10B.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 8:56 am

I assume that the engineering issues are related to having to get around multiple crosstown tunnels (60th St, 53rd St, 42nd St, the LIRR, 14th St, etc) which is something they didn’t need to deal with north of 63rd St.

Subutay Musluoglu July 31, 2013 - 10:07 am

Don’t forget the 63rd Street Line itself, which will also have to be passed over or under. And if the MTA wants to avoid future complications, ideally they should also build the connections to the 63rd Street Line’s existing bellmouths, to allow future service to and from Queens and Lower Manhattan. Enabling those links will be a significant challenge, but achievable. Though any future Queens service may have to wait a generation or two for an increase in complimentary Queens trunk line capacity.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 10:15 am

Good point. There’s also the possible station transfer passageways to each of these lines, which will be extremely costly.

However I do believe the connection to the 63rd Street south bellmouth is already part of Phase 3.

Subutay Musluoglu July 31, 2013 - 10:21 am

Yes it is, and the Phase III transfer possibilities are carefully written – I recall “under consideration” – so the MTA has wiggle room there if they do not want to commit to building the transfers. The transfers to the IND Lexington Avenue-53 Street station and to the Flushing Line Grand Central station in particular will be ambitious. The connections to the bell mouths are even more vague.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:38 pm

Passageways are a lot easier to build in Midtown than they are downtown (Dey) due to less ancient infrastructure. Ideally, the 1.5 block passageways will also be outfitted with moving walkways in both directions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

I’m not sure if the MTA is making a mistake by neglecting any sort of transfer facility to Lex/59th and the Astoria Line.

Subutay Musluoglu July 31, 2013 - 10:57 am

In the EIS the MTA was noncommittal as to which of the suggested transfers would be built – “under consideration” was the phrase used. They gave themselves wiggle room, since two of these transfers – to the IND Lexington Avenue-53rd Street Station, and to the IRT Flushing Line Grand Central Station, would pose significant challenges. Though if built, they would be of tremendous value. The language regarding the bellmouths to Queens were even more vague.

Subutay Musluoglu July 31, 2013 - 10:59 am

Sorry for the repetition – I didn’t see my original reply go through.

SEAN July 31, 2013 - 11:47 am

If any passenger connections are built, the one at 42nd Street is a must for obvious reasons. I can see a case for another at 53rd for the E & M, but it is not as cridicle since 7 trains cross these lines in two places in Queens as well as Times Square. Having said that, I think a transfer at 53rd street would be a benefit despite the costs.

Eric July 31, 2013 - 12:26 pm

“cridicle”->critical. As in critic and criticism.

David Brown July 31, 2013 - 11:43 am

I have little doubt that the Grand Central Connection will happen. Why? East Side Access. Without this connection the Lexington Ave Line will be worse than ever. I also think that the Houston Street Terminus makes sense (As does the (L) Train Connection at 14th St), but the rest of it will be difficult, such as cutting through Chinatown (starting at Grand St). As far as the Real Estate Board is concerned, they are not incorrect when it comes to The Bronx. With the SAS Connection to the (4), (5) & (6) at 125th, the Eastern Bronx would be covered. Extending it to Columbia University, with a Connection to the (2),(3), (A), (B), (C) & (D), covering Northern Manhattan and the West Bronx would be even better (and probably cheaper then Tunneling under the East River). I could even see that as a replacement for Phase IV.

SEAN July 31, 2013 - 12:01 pm

I wasn’t thinking in regards to ESA, but you make a lot of sence there. Any way to disperse some of the crowds off the 4, 5 & 6 would have good longterm benefits.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:40 pm

The point of Phase IV is to serve the skyscrapers by the East River which are underserved, and are also a huge job market.

Grand St should be relatively easy, since the entire thing runs under Chrystie St, and adjacent to a large park should they need the space to put equipment in or something.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:35 pm

As you venture into the older parts of the city, you run the risk of hitting remains of older buildings. Didn’t the new South Ferry hit something like that?

Nathanael August 5, 2013 - 8:00 pm

Mostly a problem in areas built on fill.

smartone July 31, 2013 - 9:00 am

My question is why does the new phase only have to be phase 2
The original intent was the whole line to be built at the same time –

Why not try to get Phase 3 up and running too?

I know funding is issue but it seems to me that Phase 3 will be the most expensive part of the project
so it would make sense to try to get it started as soon as possible which would guarantee it’s completion

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 9:16 am

If you know funding’s the issue then you just answered your own question. Projects get approved for funding one at a time and the amount of money is limited. Better to focus the resources on one thing and get that finished than to spread out the money and delay everything.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:41 pm

The original intent in the 1970s was actually a two-phase project. Shel Silver threw a hissy fit and wanted all of it done, but the MTA ran out of money due to the fiscal crisis.

Doing it all at once is not feasible.

Ed July 31, 2013 - 9:21 am

Why is this phase the same cost as the first phase? Considering some of the tunnelling work is already done it should be cheaper. Or is the price the same including inflation over the last decade?

Nick Ober July 31, 2013 - 9:30 am

I believe the cost is mainly tied to the 125th Street/Lex station complex and the curved tunnel needed to get there.

Speaking of which, will the MTA need a new TBM to complete the tunnel between 116 and 125th? If so, it seems like such a waste to not keep tunneling to the West Side — even if the stations had to be completed later on.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 9:50 am

Yes they do.


That portion of the tunnel extends past Lexington all the way to 5th Ave – and basically requires another set of TBMs to be set up (and this tunneling looks almost as extensive as the stretch from 63rd to 96).

Good news about this arrangement is that if funding is there they can basically build one more station at the end there for connection to the Lenox Ave Line.

D.R. Graham July 31, 2013 - 6:29 pm

That wouldn’t happen because it would be repeating the mistake that was already made when the IRT failed to expand past Flatbush. The MTA will not make the stub terminal mistake ever again. If the plan was to build a station to Lenox and terminate the overall tunneling plan would call for tail tracks beyond Lenox.

Yet all of this extends the project completion time because as we may or may not remember it takes time for a TBM to chew the ground and spit out the muck.

Larry Littlefield July 31, 2013 - 9:54 am

My assumption is the opposite.

It seems the TBMs are delivering on their promise of cheaper tunneling. But the cost of the stations is off the charts. Same number of stations, same money.

Which is why I think there should be even fewer stations if there is ever a phase III/IV (see below). People can walk (or Citibike) farther to ride faster.

Nick Ober July 31, 2013 - 9:58 am

The MTA could also experiment with large diameter TBMs (via Alon Levy)

Henry August 1, 2013 - 8:02 pm

It’s probably because all of the stations are large caverns. If they developed more restrained subway stations a la London Underground (two tubes periodically connected by passageways with access shafts to a surface mezzanine) it’d probably be cheaper.

Nathanael August 5, 2013 - 8:02 pm

What really blew the budget was the defective buildings, the utility relocations, and generally all the pre-construction crap where every chiseler tried to get the MTA to pay for stuff which was not the MTA’s responsibility.

llqbtt July 31, 2013 - 9:33 am

It’s good to hear some good news that people do indeed have their thinking caps on and will hopefully move forward with the ‘no-brainer’ Phase II.

Here’s the thing. They’d better move quickly and secure federal funding before Obama leaves office. This project is right up his alley, and he can slap the GOP silly with it, however if Hillary (the project is safe with her) loses forget this moving forward under any GOP president, given the current potential candidate list.

Larry Littlefield July 31, 2013 - 9:33 am

This is fantasyland, but I believe Phase II should include the Dekalb to Rutgers tunnel connection. And then Phase III should head east to a station in the East Village, and then connect to the current F line north of Delancey Street station.

There is already plenty of subway capacity in Lower Manhattan for the jobs likely to locate there, and “Water Street” doesn’t seem like such a good place for underground infrastructure after Sandy. The connection would allow transfers from the old BMT southern division up the East Side, along with the eastern division at Delancey (J/Z) and 14th Street (L). Those heading all the way to Lower Manhattan on the east side would change at Delancey.

Moreover, I’d skip the 23rd and 34th Street stations in phase III to make the SAS an express run to Midtown and save money. There is capacity on the Lex Local, a short walk away, in this area.

SEAN July 31, 2013 - 9:58 am

Moreover, I’d skip the 23rd and 34th Street stations in phase III to make the SAS an express run to Midtown and save money. There is capacity on the Lex Local, a short walk away, in this area.

I understand your point, but 34th street is to busy to bypass even though Lexington is 2-blocks west. You could skipp 23rd if you wanted to do that, but I think it’s a bad idea since there are a lot of people who reside around there who need access to a subway line other than the 6.

John-2 July 31, 2013 - 10:01 am

If I was allowed to tinker with the plan for Phase III, I’d include the option to ‘jog’ the line one avenue west on a diagonal at Stuyvesant Street to Astor Place-Cooper Square, where a station could include a transfer to the 6 at Astor, and then curve it east at Bowery and Houston right into the center tracks at Houston-Second Avenue.

The brief detour to lower Third Avenue would allow for an easy transfer to and from the SAS for people wanting to continue downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall area without Phase IV being built. A connection to the Essex Street tracks just east of the Second Avenue station could then be put in to allow for through-running SAS trains to Church Avenue or Coney Island (and if a connection to Queens was ever made via the 63rd Street tunnel, that would allow for a second route that could be part of Phase IV continuing down Bowery via Water Street to Hanover Square).

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 10:07 am

IIRC when the current plan was developed in the late 90’s/early 00’s one of the alternatives was to route the section of the line below 14 Street to the LES, but this plan was eliminated for some reason. Considering the considerable demographics shift since the time the project was originally designed, I can definitely see MTA going back to the drawing board with this.

John-2 July 31, 2013 - 11:51 am

If they hadn’t filled in the section of the 1970s SAS project between Second and Ninth streets, diverting the line over to Cooper Square wouldn’t make any sense. But since it’s not part of the new plan, as the tunnels north of 96th Street are, taking advantage of the angle of Stuyvesant Street to allow for an easy connection to the 6 and an already-built link to the F line at Houston-Second Ave. would be a viable option to keep the line from simply dead-ending at Houston if the Phase IV funding is delayed.

(And if a second SAS branch was extended south to Hanover Square via Water Street — without a stop at Houston/Bowery — one at Delancey could link to the J/Z station at the Bowery, and a connecting corridor at the south end of the station under Hester Street could offer a transfer to the B/D at the north end of Grand.)

Larry Littlefield July 31, 2013 - 11:55 am

Someone else (RPA) made the suggestion of connecting it to the Rutgers Tunnel. But that makes no sense without Rutgers/DeKalb on the other side. And a connection north of Delancey, to allow those coming from the north to change to continue downtown.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 12:07 pm

Why do you think the connection to Rutgers would require another connection with DeKalb? One of the biggest issues these days is how to improve TBH in the Culver Line (and maybe bring the F express thing back), this would enable them to do that.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:43 pm

The F express cannot be brought back until the lower level of Bergen St is rehabbed completely.

Alon Levy July 31, 2013 - 1:05 pm

Moreover, I’d skip the 23rd and 34th Street stations in phase III to make the SAS an express run to Midtown and save money. There is capacity on the Lex Local, a short walk away, in this area.

There’s also high residential density east of Second and a major destination in Bellevue.

John-2 July 31, 2013 - 2:22 pm

IIRC, that was similar the original MTA SAS plan — No 23rd Street station, so the line would be like the Seventh and Eighth Avenue lines, with a mile-run from 14th to 34th.

As noted above, the NYU Medical Center at 32nd and First makes the 34th Street station something that would be tough to eliminate now (let alone the protests from Kips Bay residents), while 23rd had both Bellevue and the VA hospitals, plus the Waterside, Peter Cooper and Bellevue South apartment complexes. Lots of angry folks at the southern end of Community Board 6 if you knock those two stops out.

BenW July 31, 2013 - 5:26 pm

The original MTA SAS plan from 80 years ago? Wasn’t that a 4-track express/local line, anyway? So the local would, like the 8th Avenue Local, stop at 23rd?

John-2 July 31, 2013 - 7:24 pm

No MTA 80 years ago — this was the 1968-70 plan when the MTA was first created by Nelson Rockefeller and Bill Ronan. It had four segments built (two above 96th, the 2nd-9th street one that was filled in, and the tunnel section built along with Confucius Plaza) and was sold to the public as a hybrid express-local, with bigger gaps between stations to make up for the fact it was only going to be a two-track (cut and cover) line.

llqbtt July 31, 2013 - 1:42 pm

You might be able to get away with skipping 23rd, but not 34th. Reason: NYU Medical Center. And if the station is situated correctly, that would be the north exit and Bellevue would be near the southern exit.

AlexB July 31, 2013 - 1:43 pm

Excellent idea! Connecting the 2nd Ave phase III to the Rutgers tunnel in the East Village would really be a game changer for Brooklynites, cutting 20+ minutes off a number of trips to the East Side.

Phase IV was always a giveaway to Sheldon Silver, we’re all just waiting for him to stop being speaker of the assembly.

Karm July 31, 2013 - 6:05 pm

i really don’t understand how sheldon silver is still around.

Nathanael August 5, 2013 - 8:04 pm

An attempt by “good government” Democrats to replace him as majority leader failed in, IIRC, the mid 90s. Nobody’s had the heart to try again since then.

Inquiring Mind July 31, 2013 - 10:15 am

Perhaps it’s premature to be thinking about Phase IV, when even the prospect of Phases II-III is in question, but has anyone ever seen a satisfactory response to the following question?

Namely, why was it decided to go to the expense of building an entirely new tunnel from Houston Street all the way to Hanover Square (along with some sort of “Barge Facility” at the latter location), when a perfectly good, unused route already exists from Delancey Street all the way to Lower Manhatten with a through connection on to Brooklyn?

Just as two of the four tracks built on Chrystie Street in the 1960’s were tied into the tracks on Delancey Street heading toward the Williamsburg Bridge, the two new (Phase III) tracks on Second Avenue/Chrystie Street could be tied into the two unused tracks on Delancey Street heading in he other direction (west).

The construction costs have to be significantly lower than those of an entirely new tunnel, and the utility of the resulting route has to be much higher. Travelers from Brooklyn would have direct access to the route up Second Avenue via Nassau Street and the new connection. The existing J/Z service would have to terminate at Canal Street, or – with some additional construction – they could terminate at Chambers Street, but neither of these possibilities seems like a great loss, as J/Z riders could transfer to the T for service beyond these terminals.

I can’t believe this approach wasn’t been considered by the MTA, and if it was, why was it rejected?

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 10:25 am

Read this report from the original design studies – http://www.mta.info/capconstr/.....report.pdf

Their rationale:

“The two different engineering options would have different costs, benefits, effects on subway service, and potential impacts on the community and environment. The cost of the Nassau line option would be lower because this option reduces the amount of new tunnel required. However, by utilizing an existing subway line, this engineering option would have impacts on the existing J/M/Z service. The number of new riders attracted to the subway system would be greater for the Nassau line option, simply because of its greater coverage by providing service to Brooklyn. However, the Water Street option would provide better ridership benefits within Manhattan and a slightly greater effect in relieving congestion on the existing Lexington Avenue line. The Water Street option would also have more significant potential environmental impacts to parks and archaeological resources south of Houston Street.”

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 10:26 am

Sorry – should have referenced this:

“As described in Appendix B, a Water Street alignment in Lower Manhattan was selected over a
Nassau Street alignment as a result of additional environmental and operational review and
public input during the planning phase that occurred as part of this SDEIS. Accordingly, the
project description below incorporates the Water Street alignment as part of the Second Avenue
Subway project. The new subway’s routes, tunnels, stations, ancillary facilities, signals, rolling
stock, and maintenance and storage facilities are summarized below as well. As discussed
throughout this SDEIS, environmental, economic, community and engineering concerns were
considered in developing the selected alternative.”

AlexB July 31, 2013 - 1:46 pm

The thing is that was written before a subway station turned out to cost $750 million. Furthermore, I doubt they really took into account that the Nassau subway is 4 tracks (some removed) between Bowery and Chambers and there are all sorts of ways they could combine the JZ and Second Avenue services in that tunnel.

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 3:56 pm

Its actually 1 track is remove. 2 is in revenue service. 1 is for non-revenue service (far side northbound track) but it does not stop at Canal and Bowery.

track map: http://b24blog.blogspot.com/p/.....miles.html

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 3:59 pm

If its feasible, there is a tunnel that was connected from Nassau St line to Manhattan Bridge south side, they can use that section if it does not hampered the Broadway Line services.

Justin July 31, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Simple: Population distribution. If you go down to Wall Street and the Hanover Sq area there are lots of large skyscrapers that house thousands of workers all along Water St. Broad Street, on the other hand, has less of these people and is often clogged up not by workers but tourists trying to look at Trinity Church or the NYSE. The actual workers often take the IRT lines because they’re easier to get to than Nassau St, and thousands more take ferries and busses to get to the East side of the financial district, right where the new alignment is to go.

You also have to consider that just because there is a tunnel in the ground doesn’t mean you can suddenly run trains through it. All of the Nassau St stations would have to be lengthened and practically rebuilt from the ground up with new signals and CBTC etc., for a part of Manhattan with less population demand. It makes little sense to use Broad St when Water St is where the people are.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 4:58 pm

There were environmental and engineering concerns too.

There would be a ton of disruptions to the area (the mature trees at the Sara Roosevelt Park seem to be a big sticking point in terms of what they do for some reasons), as well as engineering challenges to connect the two tunnels.

Inquiring Mind July 31, 2013 - 4:55 pm

Thanks Jeff, but I wonder if the conclusions reached twelve years ago would still be reached today?

On its face, the Nassau alignment sounded like it would have been preferred even then, but only by a small margin:

COST – Nassau wins
IMPACT ON J/Z/M – Water wins
RIDERS SERVED – Nassau wins
RELIEF TO LEX. – Water wins

I suspect that cost is a bigger issue today, and it can only get worse over time, so that moves things in Nassau’s favor. The M is gone from Nassau, as is any service to Brooklyn, so an option that restores this is also a recent plus for Nassau. It’s not like the T is going to contend with the M for scarce track space any more. Sure, it would be nice to have a new line in the built up area east of William Street, but at what cost? I’d rather see them use an affordable Nassau Street alternative than an unaffordable Water Street one.

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 5:20 pm

Yeah, I don’t think I posted the correct documents above…

Appendix B of the SDEIS is where they described all the reasoning for choosing Water St…


But I would agree that many of their reasoning are outdated or just plain incorrect. They walk about the impacts to J/M/Z service which no longer applies. Then they go into talking about environmental impacts of areas of the Nassau Street Line that won’t need to get touched in order to make the connection. And they think that this wouldn’t reduce crowding on the 4/5/6 which is an incorrect assumption (since the Nassau line runs along the Lex line)

Seems like they were trying to come up with excuses to make Water Street the alignment they want and did a pretty unconvincing job of it.

JMB August 1, 2013 - 12:59 pm

I also vote for Nassau line connection, it just makes too much financial sense not to connect to the former Manhattan bridge tracks. If water street was really that important, they could always build some type of bellmouth for a future branch down that way.

J train could terminate at Chambers, the T could connect at the 2nd ave F station (isnt there already a provision there for this?), swing over to a new station somewhere around Grand, then connect to the Nassau line and continue south. Montague tunnel has spare capacity as does the local 4th ave line in Bk.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:49 pm

You do realize that the Nassau St platforms are Eastern Division, and as such only handle 8-car trains?

The SAS was projected to serve at least 500K riders a day once fully fleshed out – to serve loads of that magnitude on 8-car trains would be an absolute nightmare.

Bolwerk August 2, 2013 - 10:23 am

We’ve actually discussed whether those platforms could be extended, and I think the answer was: inconclusive.

Though, I don’t know if the 8-car thing is an issue. It just means you need slightly higher throughput to meet demand.

Henry August 2, 2013 - 12:37 pm

It’s not exactly wise, though, especially since it’s not like SAS ridership is going to decline after opening day.

The other problem I have (besides the Seaport area being underserved) is that you then subject people on the newest subway line to the conditions at Chambers St. Something about that rubs me as a bad investment.

Bolwerk August 2, 2013 - 2:05 pm

I tend to agree with extending the SAS to new areas, but upgrading the Nassau line isn’t an inherently bad solution, especially if downtown platforms can be extended. Fulton is mere blocks from the Seaport, and the J/Z is hardly very busy.

I would think the cosmetic fixes to Chambers would be helluva cheaper than SAS costs as they stand now.

Bolwerk July 31, 2013 - 10:44 am

Hey, since she reads your blog, why don’t you ask her what she’s doing to get construction costs down to first world levels?

Joseph July 31, 2013 - 12:05 pm

I know what Caroline Maloney could do to help construction costs. She could stop supporting guys who overwhelmingly support unions which in turn drive everything into the sky

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 12:10 pm

The US isn’t the only first world country with unions.

Bolwerk August 2, 2013 - 10:01 am

Yes, it would appear countries with stronger unions have lower costs. Hmm!

Alon Levy July 31, 2013 - 1:08 pm

Outside the US, the highest construction costs are in the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, and possibly Japan. Clearly, Singapore’s problem is that strikes are illegal but only carry a prison term or expulsion if you’re a foreigner – it should start shooting striking workers if it wants to secure property rights better.

Stephen Smith July 31, 2013 - 3:58 pm

The fact that Singapore, whose subway costs are much lower than NYC’s, has no union problems (I have no specific knowledge here, but I’ll take your word for it) and still has higher-than-France subway costs doesn’t mean that a part of NYC’s problem isn’t unions.

It seems unlikely that union work rule costs (I think we can probably rule out compensation issues) are the majority of the Paris-NYC cost differential – Horodniceanu and Mysore Nagaraja have both said they boost staffing requirements by 2-3x compared to Spain, so that’s probably the upper limit of the union work rule problem, and obviously NYC’s subways are waaaaay more expensive than just 2-3x Spain’s – but it seems likely, especially given the power of our subway operating unions (OPTO), that they play a not-insignficant role in high subway construction costs.

If I had to guess, I’d we can blame unions, management and private sector contractors/consultants about equally for NYC’s high construction costs. The iron triangle of NYC transit costs?

Jeff July 31, 2013 - 5:03 pm

There you go…

The real problems in NYC are the archaic union work rules and regulations, as well as government regulations related to construction and heavy civil work.

That and the high standards of living in this city. The rest of the USA can still build for cheaper, after all.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 7:11 pm

I don’t understand how you get to “The rest of the USA can still build for cheaper. The only underground heavy-rail comparison as of right now is the extension of the subway to the sea, which is about half the cost, but isn’t extending through dense skyscrapers, tangles of unmapped infrastructure, and colonial-era ruins (but they’re tunneling through tar sands to do it, so I guess that makes up for it somewhat.)

In any case, a sample size of one is not really a great thing to compare to. The rest of the extensions that have been mooted in the United States are all elevated or above-ground (WMATA Silver Line, Miami, Atlanta (which got turned down in a referendum) and Chicago’s Red Line extension. I’m not sure if Honolulu counts, because they keep calling it “light rail”, although it sounds like it’s an automated metro system.)

Karm August 1, 2013 - 7:39 pm

yeah – for one thing… NYC is more expensive than other places in the U.S. The only place that really compares as a major city would be San Fran… and we saw just last week their Trans Bay hub is now $300 million over budget and growing.

Alon Levy July 31, 2013 - 9:42 pm

I was responding specifically to the partisan barb about “supporting guys who overwhelmingly support unions.” The partisan issues regarding labor don’t or barely affect costs. Right-to-work states like Virginia (home of the above-ground Metro extension for 100% underground costs) and Georgia have the same cost problems as unionized states like California and New York. Nicole Gelinas twisted into interesting shapes defending two-person train operation and station agents, on the grounds that what’s really required is wage cuts.

Conversely, Democratic policy proposals regarding card check and raising the minimum wage wouldn’t change anything about public procurement. Public-sector workers make far above minimum wage even without unions, and those industries are generally already unionized. The pro-labor policies that makes infrastructure more expensive are various forms of protectionism, including globally unique regulations, but those aren’t a partisan issue, since everyone supports them when in power.

Bolwerk August 2, 2013 - 10:16 am

Since there aren’t any real “experts” on this subject – some of the people with a better grip on reality who post to this blog are about as close as you get in realm of what can broadly be called “journalism” – people like Nicole Gelinas step in to fill the vacuum, and I bet she’s smart enough to know most of her readers are way the hell too dumb to actually evaluate what she says critically.

Nyland8 July 31, 2013 - 6:40 pm

Slavery would be a lot cheaper.

After all, the Saudis will be building six lines totaling 110 miles and 85 stations for only 22.5 billion – and do it in 4 years.

Then they might even give the “laborers” their passports back.

Alon Levy July 31, 2013 - 10:46 pm

Just as a nitpick, the Riyadh Metro appears to be a majority-above-ground project. See low-resolution image here; underground stations are in pink and red, at-grade ones in yellow, elevated ones in blue.

So the cost isn’t even that low.

Nathanael August 5, 2013 - 8:09 pm

I do kind of wish I’d visited historic Mecca before the evil Saudi Royal Family *demolished it*.

AlexB July 31, 2013 - 2:21 pm

There’s no technical reason they couldn’t work on phase III and phase II at the same time. Just sayin’.

I think one of the major lessons learned from phase I is the relatively low cost of tunneling compared with the stations. They really really need to examine the large bore tunnels (per Alon Levy) and seriously consider how in the hell they plan to build the 125th St stop. The complexity of that station alone, with transfer facilities to the Metro North and 4/5/6 will easily push it over the $1 billion (phase I construction techniques led to $750 million stations). Looking at phase III stations, there are a number that will be equally or more complex, pushing that phase close to the $8 or $9 billion level. That’s absurd (but still a relative bargain compared to the ESA design). If they can’t figure out more cost effective methods, it would make more sense to have a IIIA to 42nd or 34th and a IIIB to Houston, each built over 5-10 years to spread the costs.

Epson45 July 31, 2013 - 2:45 pm

It will take more then 10 years at the pace compare to Phase I to build Phase III which is absurd.

Alon Levy July 31, 2013 - 9:48 pm

One fortunate aspect of Phase 3 is that the east-west lines are already quite deep, so SAS is planned to pass above rather than below them. This is cheaper since it doesn’t require underpinning.

However, even with Phase 1 per-km cost, 63rd to Houston would be $8 billion. At current ridership projections, this is $52,000 per rider, which is too much (Phase 1 is $23,000), and the line should not be built at all unless costs can be reduced. There are higher priorities in such a case, such as Utica, Triboro, and depending on the service plan new commuter rail tunnels.

Justin Samuels August 1, 2013 - 2:10 am

The Utica Avenue line has no champions, and nothing on it has even started. Ditto for Triboro. The Second Avenue Subway, in taking passengers off the Lexington Avenue line and East Side buses, would have the most riders. That’s how you attract funding from Albany and Washington. Its unclear how many people would ride a train going from Brooklyn to the Bronx through Queens, especially since it does not connect any major job centers. That’s the problem with Utica Avenue too . The full length Second Avenue Subway goes from Spanish Harlem to Downtown, with provisions to the Bronx and Brooklyn, meaning it takes people to Midtown and Downtown.

Alon Levy August 1, 2013 - 2:50 am

Somehow, Bloomberg got the 7 extension without prior backers, without Albany, and without Washington.

Guest#116 August 1, 2013 - 4:46 am

So true. There should be a hudson yards #2 in Brooklyn for that to happen.

Henry August 1, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Things are a lot easier when you’re the richest man in the city and have a national reputation for steamrolling everyone.

Bolwerk August 2, 2013 - 9:30 am

A not very well-earned reputation either. He doesn’t exactly get much done.

Henry August 2, 2013 - 12:38 pm

He gets the things that piss a lot of people off done (or tries to, until a court order strikes him down.)

An actual steamroller (Eliot Spitzer) caused a lot more dysfunction in the state government, if I remember correctly.

Bolwerk August 2, 2013 - 2:00 pm

The “pissed off” thing is an extension of NIMBYism. He gets the things that piss off selfish prudes and prigs at the expense of other selfish prudes and prigs. Smokers don’t want their cigarettes limited, but they don’t give a sweet damn about the portion control regulations (unless they’re fat smokers or smokers tied to agri-industrial/refined sugar business). And none of them give a sweet damn about alcohol regulations that tell adults when, where, how, or if they can drink. Never you mind the stuff that actually does literally oppress people, like stop ‘n frisk.

Karm August 1, 2013 - 8:43 am

justin – you question how many ppl would take a train through Queens to get between Brooklyn and the Bronx???? There are many many drivers who make that trip. To say for instance it doesn’t touch any “major” job centers….? Just because it’s not midtown or lower manhattan doesn’t mean it’s not a job center. For instance – there are many thousands of industrial workers on hunts point in the bronx… and more and more added each year…. they don’t all live in the bronx.


do only “white collar” jobs count?

as an aside – ppl in NY don’t just use public transit for work…but for everything. thousands of ppl drive between those boroughs every single day for non-work reasons also. taking some of those cars off the road is worthwhile.

Bolwerk August 2, 2013 - 9:58 am

Pretty sure only people like him count.

It’s hard to draw a line on a map of the city that intersects two or more subway lines and not offer improved access to job centers. Extend the 7 across to the Bronx, allow a transfer to the 6, and that would give a massive number of people access to several job centers in both directions, even if those job centers are not in The Bronx.

SEAN July 31, 2013 - 8:47 pm

Every one was so serious this morning, that I thaught it is time for a little humor curtisy of the late great Dick Clark.

From the $10,000 Pyramid

Dick Clark… Now what is it that you don’t do.
Tony Randel… You don’t say shit.

SEAN July 31, 2013 - 8:51 pm

Since the youtube link failed to post, look up Dick Clark rendered speachless. It is so histericle.


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