Home Second Avenue Subway Doubts grow over Dec. 2016 opening for Second Ave. Subway

Doubts grow over Dec. 2016 opening for Second Ave. Subway

by Benjamin Kabak
Come December (or so), the W train will return to the subway map. (Via MTA)

Will the Q reach the Upper East Side before 2016 ends?

Time isn’t on the MTA’s side as December slowly creeps up on the first phase of the Second Ave. Subway. Years ago, the MTA vowed to deliver this long-delayed subway line to the Upper East Side before 2016 is out, and over the past six months, we’ve heard a steady drumbeat of bad news about the pace of work on the project. Now, with five months to go, the MTA’s Independent Engineering Consultant is again sounding the alarm bell over the amount of work remaining while the MTA continues to promise a December 2016 opening. With numerous vital systems’ installations and tests still pending, the race to the end of the year doesn’t favor an on-time delivery.

The latest update came at Monday’s Board meeting session of the Capital Program Oversight Committee. The MTA first ran through its litany of updates, and the pending items sound awfully similar to those that delayed the opening of the 7 line extension by nearly 20 months. The agency notes that fire safety and communications systems at various stations remain behind schedule. At each of 72nd St., 86th St. and 96th St., the delay is in the testing of fire safety systems and, more importantly, the installation of critical communications systems. Since conduits were installed late, testing has been delayed, and without testing and acceptance, MTA Capital Construction cannot certify the project complete and ready for New York City Transit control. As of now, the MTA doesn’t expect these problems to cause a delay in revenue service date, but they appear in the red on the status dashboard.

Meanwhile, elevators too remain an MTA bugaboo. The agency has not yet received four elevator cabs for the 72nd St. station, largely due to last-minute design tweaks that delayed deliver of specifications for the elevators to the manufacturer. We’ve heard recently about the ongoing need for Change Orders related to this project, and this delay is a clear indication of the impact of those COs. With the project so delayed, the MTA has completed only 336 of the 608 tests it was due to wrap by June and is now pushing operations testing out by 30 days and into a short window set to begin on October 1.

In a follow-up presentation, the IEC issued its warning. “Based on the project’s reports and IEC field observations of station construction progress, the IEC finds that the project is not on schedule and has fallen further behind schedule in the month since our last report in June. The Project Team now needs to implement and maintain a revised schedule for completion of testing and for meeting the Revenue Service Date.”

The IEC notes that the MTA needs to spend money faster than it has been to support a December revenue service date and urged the MTA to adopt a four-prong approach to finishing on time. This plan involves speeding up testing, ensuring contractors deliver on time, speed up work on the backlog of pending changes and begin to close out station room inspections.

Despite all this, the MTA assured me earlier this week that revenue service in December remains on the table. The agency is prepared to cover unanticipated issues with the systems testing, and contractors are now working overtime and at night to ensure around-the-clock production. It’s a race; it always has been, but it’s shifted from a marathon to a sprint. For the sake of Upper East Siders’ sanity, the MTA’s credibility and, perhaps, Michael Horodniceanu’s job, the MTA is urging its contractors to get the job done before December. Time is not on their side.

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bigbellymon4 July 27, 2016 - 1:43 am

I keep hearing about change orders. Why is the MTA giving out change orders so late and so close to the deadline? Design tweaks for an ELEVATOR CAB? SERIOUSLY? It isn’t rocket science, but it sounds like these orders should have been in the initial work plan, not now.

eo July 27, 2016 - 7:28 am

Given that whoever the MTA hired to do the design obviously did not do a good job, why don’t they switch to “design-build” type contracts? There will be no need for change orders as the builder is also the designer and the builder knows damn well what they can build and how easily. Of course, then the MTA will screw up the functional requirements needed to be handed out to the contractor.

bigbellymon4 July 27, 2016 - 9:25 pm

They are switching to Design-Build contracts. But I am wondering what would need to be “tweaked” in an elevator cab. The placement of buttons? The design of the buttons (circle, square)? What type of steel used? The MTA should be able to know what they want before the contract started. Why now? The MTA leaves you with sooooooo many questions about their rules and their guidelines it makes people think too hard.

Jeff July 28, 2016 - 9:14 am

From experience it’s generally a coordination issue if it comes up this late in the game. Like someone forgot to provide measurements for something and now the cabs need to be adjusted to suit that.

Brooklynite July 28, 2016 - 6:55 pm

The Hudson Yards inclined elevators were available off-the-shelf from an Italian (I think) company, but because of Buy America the buttons were made by a US firm. Predictable lack of compatibility ensued…

mister July 29, 2016 - 1:30 pm

Next sentence is pretty instructive as well:

The authority said its contractors, not the agency itself, made these decisions after being presented with performance specifications

They may well have been the ones who pulled the trigger, but the specifications may have made it very difficult to do anything different.

AMH July 29, 2016 - 10:15 am

Exactly what I was wondering. Elevators should be pretty standard.

Alain July 27, 2016 - 2:16 am

Clinging on to that December 2016 deadline is just plain silly. I can’t think of any good reason for that, except that someone’s ass must have been tied to that deadline. Over in Old Amsterdam, the opening date for the long-delayed North-South Line was pushed back again earlier this month from an October 2017 to a July 2018 opening date. They could even get very specific on the date: the 22nd. Of course, it remains to be seen if that date will be met, but the reasoning behind it sounds a lot more sound to me than the MTA’s. Apparently, the MTA hasn’t learned from its 7 Line Extension delays yet.

I’d wager the North-South Line will open for revenue service before the Second Avenue Subway does…

Sam C July 27, 2016 - 3:16 pm

It’s not someone’s ass, only. The credibility of the entire organization is on the line. This is especially critical now, as the MTA is promising a 18 month shutdown timeline for the L train. It’s also important given the magnitude of the other capital projects that have to be managed.

BKTrain July 27, 2016 - 8:49 am

Considering that the 7 train took well over a year for testing, I think this will not open in 2016. Most likely June 2017 at the earliest in my opinion. Not all entrances will open at this time either. I walked the entire line and the entrances especially at 72nd have a ways to go before they will be open.

JEG July 27, 2016 - 9:51 am

Anyone who has walked around 72nd Street and 86th Street can see that the entrances and ventilation towers are still works in progress, and it is hard to imagine that these structures can be completed within a couple of months. Even assuming that everything works properly from the start, there remains so much to finish and test that a three or six month delay seem inevitable.

Matthew July 27, 2016 - 1:16 pm

It doesn’t have to be complete to open, it only has to be completed to a level where it can be operational. Take a look at the new Hudson Yards station; it isn’t completed, only 1 of the two entrances is open.

Tom July 27, 2016 - 4:38 pm

Even if one station wasn’t ready, they could still open with the other two (just passing through the incomplete station). Even with just 86th and 96th Street stations at first, it would still take a big load off of the Lex.

Brooklynite July 28, 2016 - 6:56 pm

The fire alarms need to work for passenger services to run through, even nonstop. Fire alarms are apparently quite difficult for the MTA, so skipping 72nd is unlikely to make the other stops open faster.

mister July 29, 2016 - 1:32 pm

Why would an unopened station require a fire alarm, but a tunnel does not?

Brooklynite July 29, 2016 - 7:56 pm

I believe the new tunnels have fire alarms/suppression systems as well. The older tunnels elsewhere on the system, some of which don’t even have fan plants for basic ventilation / smoke removal, are grandfathered in.

George July 27, 2016 - 10:01 am

Thank you Joseph for calling them out on their vaporware.

JJJ July 27, 2016 - 10:34 am

If the line doesnt open in time, Cuomo should resign in shame.

Eric July 27, 2016 - 10:45 am

We all knew it wasn’t going to open by end of year.

I only regret not betting money on this.

Arguendo July 27, 2016 - 12:06 pm

Pathetic and pitiful planning and execution.

Not this year, not next. Like ESA, not in our lifetime.

SEAN July 27, 2016 - 2:30 pm

Does anyone here think the SAS should be mothballed?

Not me personally.

Benjamin Kabak July 27, 2016 - 2:34 pm

Are you subtly proposing to mothball a project 95% complete that may open a few months late? To what end? This is just inventing all sorts of conspiracies.

BKTrain July 27, 2016 - 5:10 pm

Does anyone know the extent of the construction originally done from 110th to 120th street?

I saw a a number of subway grates in the sidewalk in the 110s which looked like they pointed to a tunnel. Cool air was coming out of the grates.

I also observed a small blocked off grate with an NYCT cone where some work looked like it was being done around 115th street.

If the tunnels already exist up to 105th street for phase 1, would it be possible to build a station at least at 106th street, and potentially 116th street, with some tail tracks to 120?

Perhaps this could be done at relatively lower costs than phase 1, especially considering how much tunneling has been done to 120th street already.

Maybe the turn to 125 could be done when funding becomes available at a later date. Maybe that billion in the capital plan could help fund this phase “1.5”…

SEAN July 27, 2016 - 7:42 pm


Oh no – just attempting a little comic relief. I remember the comments of others on here regarding this issue. I’ve been reading this blog for about a decade & I love it.

Larry Littlefield July 28, 2016 - 7:29 am

Not one more dime in exchange for finishing in December. If it has to wait to the June pick, sobeit.

Planning for this line — all the way to 125th Street — started in 1996. That’s going to be 20 years for a short extension regardless. When looked at on a percentage basis, whatever is in the mix now is not important.

If this was a place with a future and people who cared about it, the whole thing would have been done in 2001 — five years.

smotri July 28, 2016 - 9:29 am

With all the talk about the construction deficiencies of the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympics, I read up on the new line 4 of the Rio Metrô (which is extending Rio’s subway to the site of the Olympics). Work on the 16 kilometer (almost 10 miles) line was started in mid 2010 and is scheduled to open about a week before the Olympics begin (yes, fingers are crossed). The estimated cost is some 9-10 billion reais (around 3 billion dollars, depending on the exchange rate). So, the obvious, rhetorical question: if they can achieve something like this in a place like Rio, why on earth is it so difficult to get what is a much smaller scale project like the first phase of the 2nd Avenue Subway done on time and on budget?

Bronx Resident July 28, 2016 - 7:47 pm

Does anyone know when the road will be fixed? I want to use it to bike commute, but in its current configuration it’s too dangerous (rough road, poor lane delineation). I see that the city has been installing the concrete pedestrian islands for the coming parking protected bike lane. Anyone have a timeline estimate?

Manuel July 29, 2016 - 1:33 am

Only a fool doesn’t see that the contractors ARE MILKING this project for every dollar

Roger July 29, 2016 - 8:26 pm

No SAS Phase 1, no fare hike.


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