Home Second Avenue Subway IEC: Testing timelines, escalator and elevator installation may delay Second Ave. Subway

IEC: Testing timelines, escalator and elevator installation may delay Second Ave. Subway

by Benjamin Kabak
A glimpse inside the Second Ave. Subway's northern terminal at 96th St.  Will it be open for passengers before 2017? (Photo: <a href='http://web.mta.info/capital/docs_sas_alt.html'><p id=MTA)” width=”575″ height=”348″ class=”size-full wp-image-16193″ /> A glimpse inside the Second Ave. Subway’s northern terminal at 96th St. Will it be open for passengers before 2017? (Photo: MTA)

Over the weekend, House Representative Carolyn Maloney stood in front of the future Second Ave. Subway station at 86th St. to announce her reelection campaign for Congress. Maloney has served since winning election in 1992 and isn’t likely to face much of a challenge. She captured 80 percent of the vote in 2014.

In announcing her campaign, she played up the billions she has helped steer toward New York City infrastructure investments, but her press releases leading up to the announcement were a bit of a mess. In one, she touted, in various places that either 16 or 4 new subway stops would open this year at a cost of either $4 or $8 billion. Her press team also claimed that all 8.5 miles of the line would open this year (though with only four new stations). It was total nonsense and highlighted how the Congressional representative from the Upper East Side couldn’t be bothered with the details of the first phase of the Second Ave. Subway. Thanks for the money, but perhaps learn the details behind your investment.

My skepticism aside, Maloney used the opportunity to stress that part of the Second Ave. Subway will open this year, but will it? As part of the build-up to the supposed December 2016 revenue service date, the MTA and its independent engineering consultant have been giving monthly updates to the Board. In December, the early reports warned of a moderate risk of delay, and January brought similar news. In February, the MTA vowed to spend more to accelerate work, but in this month’s update, it’s not clear the agency will meet those goals. Furthermore, the IEC and MTA give some hints as to the cause of potential delays, and they appear to be some usual suspects: tight testing timelines and concerns that escalators and elevators won’t be installed in time.

The latest materials — available here as a PDF — weave a narrative of an agency trying to cram as much work as possible into the next nine months, but the MTA admits to certain yellow and red flags. Most of the issues concern testing. Testing at various stations for elevators, escalators, fire safety systems and vent fans may not be complete until the end of April, one month later than scheduled. As you may recall, issues with these exact systems’ passing acceptance testing were a key driver behind the delayed opening of the 7 line extension. These though currently warrant only a yellow flag, but at 72nd St., installation for escalators and elevators at one entrance will not be completed until the end of October, leaving only two months for testing.

In response, the IEC notes that the MTA’s testing schedule may be overly aggressive. “There appears to be a limited allowance for test failure and retesting activities,” the IEC noted. Further, the issues with installation of those escalators and elevators is “close to impacting” the December 2016 revenue service date. The IEC again urges more spending to keep pace with the ticking clock and notes that late design changes and a backlog of change orders haven’t been cleared yet. Any testing failures will throw that December promise into doubt.

Ultimately, the story remains the same. The MTA still promises to open the line before the year is out, but time is ticking as the issues that could delay the project aren’t melting away. I still would expect a short delay, but word of one won’t come out for a few more months. Meanwhile, we wait — for escalators, elevators, key systems, and, of course, House representatives who care enough to get the details right.

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Eric March 21, 2016 - 5:59 am

Don’t forget the fire alarms. I’m sure it will be delayed another couple years because of broken fire alarms, based on 7 Extension experience.

Jeff March 21, 2016 - 6:16 am

Yeah it’s not happening. At this point it looks like the deadline is more for internal project management use than any realistic expectation for opening.

Larry Littlefield March 21, 2016 - 6:54 am

There is no reason to focus on this date.

The real issue is why the entire section up to 125th Street did not open more than a decade ago, given that planning began in 1996.

Nick March 21, 2016 - 9:45 am

I think the original plan from 1996 was only for (what is now) the first phase. After the EIS was completed and the plan announced in the later 90s there was a public outcry that the whole line wouldn’t be built. The tabloids called it the ‘stubway.’ So they went back and did the EIS for the whole line. The irony is that, 20 years later, without secure funding for the later phases, we may only get the stubway after all.

Jeff March 21, 2016 - 12:15 pm

The original plan was for Phase 1 & 2. It was after the public outcry that Phase 3 & 4 were added.

Larry Littlefield March 21, 2016 - 3:19 pm

The original plan was for Phase I, which was later divided into Phases I and II.

Sheldon Silver blocked it with a demand that a “full length” subway be planned. He got a three year delay and a new EIS, and we ended up with half a stubway up front instead of the whole thing.

It was Silver’s doing. One of the many reasons I refer to his recent conviction as “Capone on tax evasion.”

John-2 March 21, 2016 - 8:45 am

They’ll probably end up with a press tour train through the tunnel sometime this year, in the same way they had one at the end of 2013 so Mayor Bloomberg could say the line was ‘ready’ before he left office.

Vooch March 21, 2016 - 9:07 am

They are Finally Working 2 shifts and even Have some Working saturday

Mike M. March 21, 2016 - 9:09 am

Is 96th Street really going to have black walls? Ew.

tacony March 21, 2016 - 10:25 am

At least black walls will be easier to keep clean (-looking). The sparking bright white of the new stations looks terrible after months of use without cleaning.

imogen March 21, 2016 - 1:18 pm

It’s a pretty neat play on both the graphics standards for signage and the style of Fulton Center, too

Riverduckexpress March 23, 2016 - 4:49 pm

Are you referring to the walls next to the tracks? Because those walls will have the same white tiles as 86 St and 72 St. If you look above the third rail, you can already see that the bottom two rows of the white tiles have already been erected.

Herb Lehman March 21, 2016 - 9:26 am

I’d really be surprised if all three stations are up and running before 2018. Maybe we’ll be lucky and the MTA will at least open the extra entrances at 63rd Street-3rd Avenue before the rest of the 2nd Avenue line.

Ryan March 21, 2016 - 9:55 am

All the infrastructure to run revenue-service Q trains into 63rd & Lexington is in place right now and has been for years. Turning trains at Lexington is kind of a pain in the ass because of the way that station is set up, but 72 St doesn’t actually need to be open to run non-revenue Q trains up there, change ends, switch tracks and then back down to 63/Lex.

Restoring W service, running R trains via 63 St, and turning Q trains there at all times are service pattern changes which should be made well ahead of the actual service implementation up to 96 St; in the case of the R that change must be made to fix the issues surrounding 60 St being over capacity, and the Q/W service changes will if nothing else help to build confidence in the idea that this line will open in some part eventually.

Benjamin Kabak March 21, 2016 - 10:04 am

Except that the tunnel between 57th and 63rd is in terrible shape and needs to be repaired first. So there’s a pretty compelling reason why the MTA can’t run those trains yet. Though why this is being fixed at the 11th hour is a question no one has been able to answer yet, and I’ve asked.

Ryan March 21, 2016 - 10:10 am

Can’t believe I missed that story.

Well, then I guess we can’t be implementing confidence-building or operational efficiency-improving service changes on the Broadway Line.

My confidence has been shaken accordingly; I was betting on this thing opening for July 2017 but now I’m with with Herb in thinking 2018 instead. Yikes.

Nattyb March 21, 2016 - 2:20 pm

Makes me wonder how accurate those reports of those tunnels being used for maintenance and storage are? Naturally, this makes me think of another set of tracks that are contemplated to be re-activated, in particular, the F line express beginning at Bergen . . .

Brooklynite March 21, 2016 - 4:48 pm

The issue with the F is that 15tph is not enough to give sufficient service to the local stops north of Church, given the ridership there, while also giving the stations south of Church acceptable headways. F service cannot be increased because it needs to run with the E in Queens. Before 2010, the plan was to extend the V into Brooklyn to provide the additional service that would make an express possible, but this is now off the table. The only alternative I see is an additional Church-96/2 local, but that’s unlikely.

Eric March 21, 2016 - 6:45 pm

Are there empty rush hour slots on the A/C tracks (Fulton St tunnels) that could be run through to the F express tracks?

Tower18 March 21, 2016 - 8:21 pm

Nope. I think there’s technically 1 open slot, but it should go to the C before anything else. But Cranberry is at capacity (according to MTA anyway). I think technically there’s a few more trains worth of tunnel capacity, but the interlockings at Canal and Hoyt can’t handle the merges.

John-2 March 22, 2016 - 12:27 am

Any Church express is probably going to have to wait for a long, long time — if and when SAS Phase III is completed, and a connection could be made from it to the F line at or east of Houston-Second Avenue (and even then, that probably works only if some new Second Avenue service to Queens via 63rd Street is implemented, so one SAS route still has the option of traveling south to the financial district in Phase IV).

Ryan March 23, 2016 - 2:58 pm

You could shift the F from 63 to 53 and the R from 60 to 63 and be left with EF in the 53 St Tunnel, NW in the 60 St Tunnel, and RV in the 63 St Tunnel. That works from a capacity balancing standpoint and gives you QT north of 63 St and TV south of it, with the V becoming the Culver Express service.

I was about to raise the specter of the M’s requirement to run to midtown as the only reason why this wouldn’t work (other than, of course, the horribly badly designed nature of Phases 2-4) but that isn’t even a problem since no services would be left operating between 57/6 Av and 63/Lex Av and trains could easily be turned on the switch at 57.

Tower18 March 21, 2016 - 8:19 pm

I can’t remember when the last time it happened, but it hasn’t been that long since the Q ran to Queensbridge during one of those weekends where the F went via 53rd. Maybe last year?

And as for the F express, it’s a bad plan for the reasons Brooklynite outlined…there is no capacity with which to make this new service, since dividing the existing F is not going to work, and serving local stops, which are the bulk of the ridership, with just the G isn’t going to work either.

The only option would indeed be a 2nd Avenue service via Rutgers…but that’s gonna be a long way off. I suppose another possibility is if the M was eventually sent up 2nd Avenue, then there’d be room on 6th Avenue Local for more F/ service. But that’s even less likely.

Ryan March 21, 2016 - 10:33 pm

Separating the M from the V is politically untenable because more ridership is gained by the access to Midtown than is/was lost by the discontinuation of service back into Brooklyn via the Montague tunnel.

But the M doesn’t need to be connected to both Myrtle Avenue and Queens Boulevard; both those places want access to Midtown and neither I think particularly cares which avenue they happen to arrive at.

The real problem is that Phase 4 as designed does not use any of the provisions put into place for Second Avenue downtown – it deep bores under the Chrystie St Connection, which was provisioned to accommodate future Second Avenue Services with a double crossover and a cross-platform transfer at Grand Street. If the plan is changed to capitalize on that provision instead, then the M can become a Second Avenue service, it’ll have to become the T because there’s no express tracks and no turnback track at 55 (or 72) to keep the service turning in Midtown – but it’s doable.

Riverduckexpress March 23, 2016 - 4:53 pm

Those reports were completely accurate. The tracks between 57 St-7 Av and Lexington Av-63 St were used to store trainsets up until the reconstruction of 63 St station started several years ago. The repair work in those tunnels only started 2 months ago, in January 2016.

Here’s a video from 2008, at around 1:22 in the video you can see a train stored on the tracks near Lexington Avenue – 63rd St

Ryan March 21, 2016 - 2:55 pm

How is the workflow constructed on this line, anyway?

Is there any opportunity to redistribute work crews and workloads such that critical work to getting any part of this line open can be completed ahead of whatever arbitrary opening date this thing ends up with?

The tunnel between 57 and 63 not being ready for revenue service is extremely negligent; readying it ought to be priority 1 followed closely by opening 72 St (even if that delays the opening of 86 and 96.)

I think a lot of people would take 72 St opening on time in exchange for the rest of this thing falling into 2018, particularly if the alternative is all three new stations and the other half of Lex-63 don’t open until July 2017.

SEAN March 21, 2016 - 10:28 am

At this point does a timeline really matter? It’s more important that systems work properly &the line will open late anyway.

Jeff March 21, 2016 - 12:23 pm

Speaking from experience with actually managing these types of projects, the further the deadline is, the slower the work will progress. So from that standpoint it’s important for the MTA to keep the scheduled opening in place, at least for now.

As far as the general public is concerned, the current timeline has really no relevance.

Nick March 21, 2016 - 9:45 am

I think the original plan from 1996 was only for (what is now) the first phase. After the EIS was completed and the plan announced in the later 90s there was a public outcry that the whole line wouldn’t be built. The tabloids called it the ‘stubway.’ So they went back and did the EIS for the whole line. The irony is that, 20 years later, without secure funding for the later phases, we may only get the stubway after all.

Ryan March 21, 2016 - 10:05 am

In a way, only getting the stubway may end up being a blessing in disguise: canceling the remainder of the line would force us back to the drawing board, whereupon we can fix glaring flaws in the route as designed such as the Bronx-extension-precluding turn to 125 St in phase 2, the failure to utilize existing provisions for a cross-platform transfer at Grand St in phase 4, the lack of express tracks on phase 3 (at a minimum), and the failure to leverage additional capacity available downtown by connecting this thing to existing underutilized tunnels (Montague, Rutgers) in phase 4. It’d be more expensive to retrofit the express tracks onto phase 1, but far from prohibitive/impossible to do so.

TomS March 22, 2016 - 2:30 pm

The route south of 63rd street on Second Avenue is kind of useless. It doesn’t go to any major job centers, at least until it actually hits Hanover Square. I doubt anyone from queens cares to take a train into the city and go down second avenue. Maybe for the hospital complex in the 30s on first Avenue?

The loss of the Bronx access is major. That area is going to redevelop and boom. A Subway from there that went to Midtown would accelerate the process. Shoot it right up over the Metro North tracks, either as an El using some of the space in the trench, and you have a good thing, replacing the Third Avenue el.

Tower18 March 22, 2016 - 6:57 pm

I don’t think that’s entirely true regarding job centers along 2nd Avenue. First, there are plenty of office buildings East of Lex, including along Third Avenue. Secondly, there are the hospital complexes. Third, the UN and related functions.

South of 14th I’d agree with you, but then again, at that point, the idea is no longer job centers, but population centers. And also, the idea isn’t to connect residents of Second Avenue with their jobs on Second Avenue. Only one of those is necessary: living near the line, or working/traveling to somewhere near the line.

I don’t live on line which is closest to my office.

Christopher March 21, 2016 - 4:47 pm

According to upstream comments, the 1st phase was split into 1 & Ii with the addition of III & IV because Silver through a fit. Now we have we have 1/2 of what we intended in 1996 and none of the rest. Twenty years later and half the project completed.

Christopher Stephens March 21, 2016 - 12:27 pm

Maloney has been a train wreck (if you will) for years; her public appearances are uniformly cringe-inducing. Now it sounds like her staff is in “we couldn’t care less” mode as well. Time to dump her for someone who is actually up for the job. Is this the best my neighborhood can do?

Ed Unneland March 21, 2016 - 12:46 pm

Perhaps for many in that neighborhood, congressional salary is too much of a pay cut 😉

A.G. March 21, 2016 - 1:01 pm

The pdf of the Capital Program Oversight Meeting is dated as 1:45pm-2:45pm, Monday, 3/21/2016. Considering it’s only 1:03pm when I’m typing this, and this post went up in the early morning, is the pdf inaccurate. Do the committees usually mess with the minutes and the meeting times?

Matthew March 21, 2016 - 1:53 pm

You are looking at the agenda for today’s meeting. Following the agenda for today’s meeting are the minutes from the last meeting(look at the date on the top of the page), and then after the minutes from the last meeting is the packet of documents related to the topics to be discussed/reviewed/voted on today.

Duke March 21, 2016 - 9:18 pm

I fully believe that by the end of the year, construction will be physically complete, it will be completely possible for trains to run to 96th St, and it would be completely possible for people to access the platforms except for barricades preventing such.

But, there will be glitches with all the modern technology in the stations that for regulatory and/or safety related reasons will need to be fixed before the public is actually permitted to use them.

Jerrold March 23, 2016 - 10:37 am

It makes you wonder if Maloney is actually THAT ignorant,
or whether she (or somebody who works for her) is just bullshitting the public in typical politician style.

Steve March 27, 2016 - 7:15 pm

She is both ignorant and clueless. A friend of mine used to work for a State Senator, and around 15 years or so ago the MTA took elected officials on a tour of one of the old uptown sections of SAS from the 1960’s. Standing in the tunnel, Maloney asked “so does this go all the way downtown?” Not the brightest bulb.


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