Home Second Avenue Subway Second Ave. Sagas: Scenes from future stations

Second Ave. Sagas: Scenes from future stations

by Benjamin Kabak

One day, this will be the northern end of the Q train at 96th Street and Second Avenue. Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

When last I had the opportunity to venture underground at Second Ave., in April of 2011, the future subway looked something like this. ADI, the tunnel boring machine, had completed her runs, but with December 2016 at the time over five years away, a new subway line was only vaguely taking shape.

Fast forward to today, and while we still have 38 months to go, it’s beginning to look a lot like New York’s own underground version of the impossible dream will come true. The MTA yesterday released a brand new set of images from the construction zone, and the progress is significant. Atop this post is an image from 96th St. — nearly the same view as the one I snapped two and a half years ago — and you can now see a station platform and track bed clearly taking shape. (Here is another view.)

Things are looking a bit rougher around the edges at 86th St., but you can see waterproofing well under way and track beds taking shape. Notice the difference in design too between the Second Ave. Subway and our standard-issue early-to-mid 20th century tunnels: With two deep-bore tubes, passing trains will see each other only in stations.

For more on the world underneath the city, browse over to this Vanity Fair long read. MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu loves himself the Second Ave. Subway, but East Side Access, unsurprisingly, gets more muted praise from those involved.

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Hoosac November 5, 2013 - 4:12 pm

I am sure these are going to be magnificent stations, but I have to carp: If we weren’t building cathedrals underground, wouldn’t the work go quicker? That is, if we were building the line with boring old cut-and-cover, without the deep tunnels and the towering ceilings, wouldn’t it be simpler? I know, I know, much too much infrastructure closer to the surface. Have to go down deep to avoid it. Is that really true, or is it just politically expedient not to get the locals upset by digging up their streets? Because they seem to be upset anyway. Just saying.

Ben November 5, 2013 - 5:53 pm

You’re right that it would have been cheaper. And, yes the reason this was built deep was not to avoid infrastructure, but for political expediency. The SAS simply never would have been built at all if they’d tried using cut-and-cover. The power of NIMBYism is too strong; recall the movement that killed the N/Q to LaGuardia.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 11:08 pm

Yes, NIMBYs are so powerful they stopped the launchbox in the middle of the Upper East Side, location of some of the richest ZIP codes in the USA.

Oh, wait!

Tommy P November 5, 2013 - 5:56 pm

A few weeks ago I saw a work crew on 10th Ave digging up just a couple of feet from the surface, and even that looked like a jumble of sewers, bricks, pipes, and god knows what else. I’m pretty certain that it’s cheaper and easier to work around that (very essential to city living) infrastructure rather than plowing through it.

Nathanael November 5, 2013 - 9:14 pm

Believe it or not, most streets in New York still have cobblestone or brick surfaces, which were sloppily covered over with asphalt. This is true in most of the smaller cities in New York State as well.

The just-below-surface utility pipes are a complete mess and the maps are often wrong. You’re going to have to deal with them sometimes, but they are sources of terrible delays.

D. Graham November 6, 2013 - 6:05 pm

100% in agreement. This is the point that gets missed constantly. To build the entire line via cut and cover method would mean the relocation of utilities for the stretch of the entire line which is in fact MORE expensive as opposed to just having to deal with that issue only at the stations. It drives the labor costs up because you need the people specialized with those utilities to become involved. Plus building at said depth allows the subway vibration to have less of an impact on the properties above. Something that wasn’t though of much over the last century. Not to mention the use of less steel.

Joey November 5, 2013 - 11:51 pm

Perhaps building near the surface would be easier, but there is a third solution. It turns out that digging the station caverns ends up being a lot more expensive than boring the tunnels. A solution that Barcelona has been experimenting with is to stack the station platforms inside a wide bored tunnel. This means that the whole line can be built with a continuous single bore plus access shafts, bringing down costs significantly. Perhaps this method could be investigated for phases 3 and 4 of SAS.

Eric November 6, 2013 - 8:54 am


al November 6, 2013 - 12:45 pm


al November 6, 2013 - 12:57 pm

There are EPB/hard rock TBMs that can handle soft soils and bedrock.

Henry November 7, 2013 - 10:30 pm

Deep-level was at least partially necessary to connect to 63rd St, and if you’re going to build a giant TBM launch box for one part of the project, you might as well do all of it cut-and-cover.

That being said, deep level stations =/= caverns. Barcelona and London both have deep-level stations without caverns (in the case of Barcelona, they just used a really big TBM.

Chuck November 8, 2013 - 10:30 pm

Keep in mind that there also needs to be a mezzanine level. So these large caverns will be split in half top to bottom, similar to current stations

Jerrold November 5, 2013 - 5:08 pm

“……..yesterday released a brand new set of images from the construction zone, and the progress is significantly”.

“……..Michael Horodniceanu loves himself the Second Ave. Subway.”

I can only assume that one or more words are MISSING from both of the above sentences.

By the way, other than THAT, it is a very good piece.

Jerrold November 5, 2013 - 5:14 pm

P.S. In a few years, if that sentence about Mr. H. were to be written, it will look like they are talking about somebody who should have been arrested.
It looks as if it means that he is in the habit of sitting there on the Second Avenue Subway and “loving himself”.
You’re not supposed to make love to yourself in public.

Benjamin Kabak November 5, 2013 - 5:22 pm

There were no words missing or incorrect in the second sentence. I’ve fixed the first sentence, but please please please just email me corrections.

Jerrold November 6, 2013 - 10:36 am

OK, in the future I’ll E-mail it, but as long as THIS thread already exists:
Didn’t you intend to say that he loves himself MORE THAN the Second Avenue Subway?

Benjamin Kabak November 6, 2013 - 10:48 am

Nope. I mean to say exactly what it says!

Tower18 November 6, 2013 - 11:03 am

It is a somewhat idiosyncratic phrasing in use today. He said it correctly. “Loves himself some _____” means “loves _____ a lot”

Jerrold November 6, 2013 - 1:35 pm

OK, so then THAT’S it.
Maybe I’m out of touch with the way the young people talk today.
Just like I’d rather listen to Elvis, the Beatles, the Four Seasons, and Motown than Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.

Guest #1 November 5, 2013 - 5:44 pm

So these new stations are relatively close to the surface? There is sunlight on the upper left side…

BBnet3000 November 5, 2013 - 5:57 pm

Close in that they arent in the earths core. The sunlight is just shining down a few hundred feet.

Clarke November 5, 2013 - 6:12 pm

At 96th Street the station should be close to the surface….the tubes head up to the cut-and-cover-depth of the launch box and, eventually, the 1970s trench heading north.

John-2 November 5, 2013 - 6:27 pm

Think WMATA deep tunnel Red Line stations — the only way they’ll see sunlight is on a video monitor or somebody’s iPad on the platform. I just hope the MTA does a better job with the platform lighting than WMATA, some of whose stations are only slightly brighter than the bat flight area at Carlsbad Caverns.

Benjamin Kabak November 5, 2013 - 6:31 pm

Woodley Park is 204 feet underground. The SAS station platforms will be around 80 feet underground. Let’s not get carried away! 🙂

BruceNY November 6, 2013 - 3:30 pm

If that arched, blue structure that appears in a couple of the photos is going to be the ceiling then I have to say it’s disappointing that it’s going to be so low compared with the enormous volume of space above that will ultimately be filled in. Wouldn’t soaring heights in a NYC subway station that create a feeling of space be a wonderful change from low dropped-ceilings?

chuck November 8, 2013 - 10:35 pm

need to leave space above the platform level in the cavern for the mezzanine…

JJJ November 5, 2013 - 9:29 pm

I wish theyd leave the natural rock exposed.

When they were doing repairs at Porter Square, the MBTAs deepest station, they took away some of the fake (and ugly) roof – it looked amazing.

pea-jay November 5, 2013 - 9:52 pm

yeah, I know…Something like this on Stockholm’s T-Bana

Matt November 6, 2013 - 2:35 am

That’s pretty sweet.

Here’s a different take on that, from Atlanta: http://commons.wikimedia.org/w.....tracks.jpg

Jimb0 November 6, 2013 - 5:51 pm

my kid pointed out that the ‘tube circles’ are south of the 96th station, so the station itself (being built inside the ‘launch box’ cavern) is north of those openings.

You still gotta love ’em, even when they point out your misteaks


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