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Second Avenue Subway

Second Avenue Subway
Planned route of the Second Avenue subway line. Phase I will offer Q service (sunflower yellow) to 96th Street.
Type Rapid transit
System New York City Subway
Status Phase I under construction, Phase II planned
Locale Manhattan, New York City, United States
Termini 125th Street
Hanover Square
Stations 16
Opened First phase: December 30, 2016 (2016-12-30) (projected)[1]
Owner City of New York
Operator(s) New York City Transit Authority / MTA Capital Construction
Line length 8.5 mi (13.7 km)
No. of tracks 2
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification 600 V DC third rail

The Second Avenue Subway (officially the IND Second Avenue Line; abbreviated to SAS) is a long-envisioned New York City Subway line. Since 2007, Phase I, a new line between the existing BMT 63rd Street Line and 96th Street and Second Avenue, has been under construction beneath Second Avenue in the New York City borough of Manhattan. This first phase is scheduled to open on December 30, 2016, and will serve about 200,000 daily riders. When the whole line is completed, it is projected to serve about 560,000 daily riders. By August 2015, the first phase of construction was more than 84% complete.

The line was originally proposed in 1919 as part of a massive expansion of the Independent Subway System (IND). Work on the line never commenced, as the Great Depression crushed the economy of the state and country. In anticipation of the never-built Second Avenue Subway, the Second and Third Avenue elevated lines were demolished in 1942 and 1955, respectively, and the Lexington Avenue Subway, the only remaining rapid transit line on much of Manhattan's east side, is by far the busiest subway line in the United States with an estimated 1.3 million daily riders. Other plans for the Second Avenue Subway appeared for many years following; construction on small parts of the line started in the 1970s, but was never completed.

After several starts and interruptions, mostly because of lack of funds, the most recent and financially secure construction plan was launched when a tunnelling contract was awarded to the consortium of Schiavone/Shea/Skanska (S3) by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on March 20, 2007. This followed preliminary engineering and a final tunnel design completed by a joint venture between AECOM and Arup. Parsons Brinckerhoff is the Construction Manager of the project. This contract, and the full funding grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration, which was received in November 2007, is for Phase I of the project, consisting of two miles (3.2 km) of tunnel and three stations that cost $4.45 billion. The total cost of the 8.5-mile (13.7 km) line is expected to exceed $17 billion.

A ceremonial ground-breaking for the Second Avenue Subway was held on April 12, 2007. The contractor prepared the initial construction site at 96th Street on April 23, 2007. The tunnel boring machine launch box was completed in May 2010, and on May 14, MTA's contractors completed the TBM installation and turned it on. On March 28, 2011, S3, having completed the west tunnel to 65th Street, began drilling for the east tunnel, which completed its run to the 63rd Street station's bellmouth on September 22, 2011.


  • Initial attempts 1
    • 1919–41: Initial planning 1.1
    • 1945–55: After World War II 1.2
    • 1960s–1990s: Completed segments 1.3
  • 2000s–present: Need for development 2
    • 2007–present: First phase construction 2.1
      • Construction and planning schedules 2.1.1
      • Controversies 2.1.2
    • Construction methods 2.2
    • Planned route and stations 2.3
    • Planned designation 2.4
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Initial attempts

Second Avenue Subway
Yard tracks & provision for future expansion to the Bronx
IRT Lexington Avenue Line
125th Street (proposed)
IRT Lexington Avenue Line
116th Street (proposed)
106th Street (proposed)
Line end for Phase 1
96th Street (under construction)
86th Street (under construction)
72nd Street (under construction)
63rd Street Lines
BMT Broadway Line
55th Street (proposed)
Lexington Avenue – 53rd Street  IND Queens Boulevard Line
42nd Street (proposed)
Grand Central – 42nd Street IRT Flushing Line
34th Street (proposed)
23rd Street (proposed)
14th Street (proposed)
Third Avenue BMT Canarsie Line
Houston Street
(proposed) Handicapped/disabled access
Second Avenue
IND Sixth Avenue Line
BMT Nassau Street Line
Grand Street (proposed)
Chatham Square (proposed)
Seaport (proposed)
IND Eighth Avenue Line
Hanover Square (proposed)
provision for future expansion to Brooklyn

From 1919 through the 1980s, several different entities came up with many distinct plans for the Second Avenue subway line that were never carried out. The complex reasons for these delays are why the line is sometimes called "The Line That Time Forgot".[2][3]

1919–41: Initial planning

After [6] Turner also proposed that the two elevated lines be knocked down to make room for the 6-track Second Avenue Subway.[7]:203 The plan was to connect the new line to the then-unbuilt Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue subway lines.[4]

In January 1927, Turner submitted a revised proposal. It was now going to connect to a Tenth Avenue trunk line as well as to crosstown lines in the Bronx and Queens.[4] The Second Avenue Subway was still a six-track line through Manhattan, except for a short eight-track tunnel at its junction with the Queens lines. The plan called for a connection to the IND Concourse Line in the Bronx, as well as another one to the IND Fulton Street Line in Brooklyn. Such a plan would have cost $165,000,000 (equivalent to $2,240,000,000 in 2016), including connections and underwater crossings.[4] As the IRT Lexington Avenue Line got more crowded, some suggested ideas that were considered unusual. One suggestion included a new tunnel under Lexington Avenue, while another included a tunnel under a separate right-of-way between Second and Third Avenue.[4]

In 1929, the Board of Transportation of the City of New York tentatively approved the expansion, which included a Second Avenue Line with a projected construction cost of [6][7]:203 At the time, it was supposed to be completed between 1938 and 1941.[8] In anticipation of the line's opening, real estate prices along the proposed route rose by an average of 50%.[9]

Due to the [6] By 1932, the Board of Transportation had come up with another plan, which omitted a branch in the Bronx in order to cut costs.[7]:204–205 The new line's southern terminus would be truncated to the Nassau Street Loop.[4]

A 1939 plan for expansion; the Second Avenue Subway is depicted as a red line going from lower Manhattan into the south and southeast Bronx

Further revision of the plan and more studies followed. By 1939, construction had been postponed indefinitely, and Second Avenue line was relegated to "proposed" status, and was number 14 on the Board of Transportation's list of important transportation projects.[4][6] The Second Avenue line was also cut to two tracks, but now had a connection to the [6][8]

1945–55: After World War II

The Second Avenue El, looking south on First Avenue from 13th Street during its demolition in September 1942

As part of the unification of the three subway companies that comprised the New York City Subway, elevated lines were being shut down all over the city and replaced by subways, continuing the IND's trend of phasing out elevated lines and streetcars in favor of new subways. For example, the IND Sixth Avenue Line replaced the Sixth Avenue Elevated, while the IND Fulton Street Line replaced the Fulton Street Elevated. Demolition of the elevateds also had the perceived effect of revitalizing the neighborhoods.[7]:205–206 The Second Avenue Elevated operated above Second Avenue north of the Queensboro Bridge from March 1880 until 1940, and south to downtown, part of the way on First Avenue, until June 13, 1942. Because of the elevated line's closure, as well as a corresponding increase in the East Side population, the need for a Second Avenue subway increased.[10]

In 1944, Mayor [6][7]:210–211

Under Mayor William O'Dwyer and General Charles P. Gross, another plan was put forth in 1947 by Colonel Sidney H. Bingham, a city planner and former Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) engineer. O'Dwyer and Gross believed that construction of a Second Avenue subway line would be vital to both increasing capacity on existing lines and allowing new branch lines to be built.[4][7]:209 This plan would again connect the Second Avenue Line to Brooklyn. As with Pheifer's proposal, a train frequency map was created; however, Bingham's proposal involved more branch lines and track connections. A connection to Brooklyn was to be made via the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge, and would allow trains from these bridges to go onto the Sixth Avenue Line or the Second Avenue Line. Other connections to the Second Avenue Line were to be provided at 57th Street, via a line connecting to the Sixth Avenue Line; two express tracks would be built along that line north of West Fourth Street. The IRT Pelham Line would be switched to the combined IND/BMT division (this plan also includes other connections, which have been built), and connected to the Second Avenue Line. The Second Avenue Line would end just north of that connection, at 149th Street, with transfers to the IRT White Plains Road Line and the elevated IRT Third Avenue Line, the latter of which would be demolished south of 149th Street.[4][7]:209[11] There would also be a connection to the IND Concourse Line.[4] The line was to be built in sections. The Manhattan section was top-priority, but the Brooklyn section was 19th on the priority list, and the Bronx section did not have a specific priority.[7]:209

By the next year, New York City had budget shortfalls. The City was short of $145 million (in 1948 dollars) that were needed for rehabilitation and proposed capital improvements, which cost a total of $800 million. The City petitioned the New York State Legislature to exceed its $655 million debt ceiling so that the city could spend $500 million on subway construction, but this request was denied.[4]

A R11 car, coupled to a R16 car. Ten R11s were built for the Second Avenue Subway.

The New York Board of Transportation ordered ten new prototype subway cars made of stainless steel from the Budd Company. These R11 cars, so called because of their contract number, were delivered in 1949 and specifically intended for the Second Avenue Subway. They cost US$100,000 (equivalent to $1,000,000 in 2016) each; the train became known as the "million dollar train".[12][13] The cars featured porthole style round windows and a new public address system. Reflecting public health concerns of the day, especially regarding polio, the R11 cars were equipped with electrostatic air filters and ultraviolet lamps in their ventilation systems to kill germs.[12][13]

By 1949, people in Queens and Lower Manhattan were complaining that the Second Avenue Subway would not create better transit options for them.[4] A year later, revised plans called for a connection from Second Avenue at 76th Street to Queens, under 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard, via a new tunnel under the East River. Connections would also be made to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR)'s Rockaway Beach Branch.[4][11][note 1] New York voters approved a bond measure for its construction in 1951, and the city was barely able to raise the requisite $559 million for the construction effort. However, the onset of the Korean War caused soaring prices for construction materials and saw the beginning of massive inflation.[4][8] Money from the 1951 bond measure was diverted to buy new cars, lengthen platforms, and maintain other parts of the aging New York City Subway system.[11] Out of a half-billion-dollar bond measure, only $112 million (equivalent to $1,018,000,000 in 2016), or 22% of the original amount, went toward the Second Avenue Subway.[4][8] By then, construction was due to start by either 1952 or 1957, with estimated completion by 1958 at the earliest.[8] Because many people thought that the bonds were solely to be used on the new subway, many people accused the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) of misusing the bonds.[4]

A block to the west of the proposed subway line, the Manhattan section of the Third Avenue Elevated, the only other elevated line in the area, closed on May 13, 1955.[15] Contrary to what many East Side residents thought, the demolition of the elevateds did not help the travel situation, as the Lexington Avenue Line was now the only subway transportation option on the East Side.[4] In addition, ever since the Second Avenue branch across the Queensboro Bridge closed in 1948, there were fewer tracks available on which to operate, and the Astoria and Flushing Lines from Queens suffered from overcrowding relating to the demolition of the elevateds.[7]:208

1960s–1990s: Completed segments

By 1957, it had been made clear that the 1951 bond issue was not going to be able to pay for the Second Avenue Line. The money had been used for other system expansions, such as the IRT Dyre Avenue Line, IND Rockaway Line, and the DeKalb Avenue Interlocking.[7]:216 By then, the New York Times despaired of the line's ever being built.[8] In March of that year, NYCTA chairman Charles L. Patterson stated that the NYCTA had used the bond funds properly and that the bonds were not dedicated solely to fund the Second Avenue Line. He stated that the bonds had been allocated to the corridor based on increasing ridership on the Second Avenue Line, but admitted that currency inflation, as well as necessary rehabilitation work to the existing lines, made the Second Avenue Line unlikely in the near future.[4] As the early 1960s progressed, the East Side experienced an increase in development, and the Lexington Avenue Line became very overcrowded.[4]

The Grand Street station, built as part of the Chrystie Street Connection, was originally conceived with a possible cross-platform interchange with the Second Avenue Subway.

In 1964, Congress passed the Urban Mass Transportation Act, promising federal money to fund mass transit projects in America's cities via the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA).[4][16] Concurrent with this, the southernmost part of the 1947 plan, connecting the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges to the IND Sixth Avenue Line, began construction in 1962 as the Chrystie Street Connection. When opened in 1967, it introduced two new stations on the Sixth Avenue Line—57th Street and Grand Street—as well as the most significant service changes ever carried out in the subway's history.[7]:216–217 The latter station, Grand Street, was supposed to have cross-platform interchange with the Second Avenue Line.[17][18][19][7] Other parts of that plan were carried out, including the connection under 57th Street (moved to 63rd Street) and the abandonment of the IRT Third Avenue Line south of 149th Street, but the rest of the Second Avenue Line was not built.[7]:216–217

Three years later, voters approved a $2.5 billion Transportation Bond Issue (worth about $17,682,000,000 in current dollars), which provided over $600 million for New York City projects (equivalent to $4,244,000,000 in 2016), including for a 1968 Program for Action.[4] The Second Avenue project, for a line from 34th Street to Co-op City, Bronx, was given top priority.[8] Soon afterward, the United States Department of Transportation published a report about future transport upgrades for the New York City area, including for the Second Avenue Subway, which was to get connections to the Sixth Avenue, Broadway, and Fulton Street lines.[20] The City secured a $25 million UMTA grant for initial construction.[7]:219[8] Initially, there was a controversy over the number of stops on this new line, and with only six stops at 34th, 48th, 57th, 86th, 106th, and 125th Streets, the Second Avenue line was criticized as a "rich man's express", as it skipped many parts of the East Side in addition to bypassing the Lower East Side entirely.[7]:218 People protested for almost a year over the lack of stations at 72nd and 96th Streets; while a 72nd Street station was added in 1971, the 96th Street station was still not in the official plans, despite the proximity of the Metropolitan Hospital Center to the proposed station.[7]:220

Despite the controversy over the number of stops, a groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 27, 1972.[21][22] Construction began shortly thereafter at Second Avenue and 103rd Street; this was to be the 99th–105th Streets segment, which was projected to cost $17.48 million.[23] Construction costs for the entire line were pegged at $1 billion, and rose to $1.3 billion a year later.[8] On October 25, 1973, the line's Chinatown segment commenced construction at Canal Street under the foot of the Manhattan Bridge; this segment, between Canal and Pell Streets, was due to be completed by 1980 and was being built at a cost of $8.3 million.[23] Less than a year later, on July 25, 1974, construction for an East Village segment of the line started near Second Street.[23] Another contract, for a Midtown segment between 50th and 54th Streets, was awarded that year, but construction never commenced.[24] In total, construction on the Second Avenue Line during the 1970s spanned over 27 blocks.[23] A segment between 110th and 120th Streets in East Harlem was also completed at a cost of $34.45 million.[23]

An unfinished tunnel segment at 99th Street

However, the city soon experienced its most dire fiscal crisis yet. The stagnant economy of the early 1970s, combined with the massive outflow of city residents to the suburbs, led to a fiscal disaster for the city.[22] By 1974, New York City mayor Abraham Beame was considering reallocating $5.1 billion of funding from the Second Avenue Line to the existing infrastructure, which was rapidly deteriorating and in dire need of repair.[25] In September of the following year, Beame issued a stop-work order for the line.[26] The tunnels were ordered sealed, and no other funding was to be allocated to the line's construction.[26] Construction of the line was halted, with only three sections of tunnel having been completed, excluding the Chrystie Street Connection and the connected BMT 63rd Street Line. By 1978, when the New York City Subway was at its lowest point in its existence, State Comptroller Arthur Levitt stated that there were no plans to finish the line.[8]

Over the next twenty years, plans for the subway line mostly stagnated. New York governor Mario Cuomo planned to allocate $22 million for the design of a renewed Second Avenue line in the 1990s, but this was rejected in 1993.[27] In 2001, a contract for subway design was awarded to DMJM Harris/Arup Joint Venture.[8] Of this failure to complete construction, Gene Russianoff, an advocate for subway riders since 1981, stated: "It's the most famous thing that's never been built in New York City, so everyone is skeptical and rightly so. It's much-promised and never delivered."[28]

Of the three completed segments,[8][29][30] the 115th–120th Streets and Pell–Canal Streets sections have no infrastructure or track,[31] but the section between 99th and 105th was being renovated with tail tracks by December 2013[32] in anticipation for being used as train storage in Phase I of the SAS. The section between 110th and 120th Streets will be used in Phase II of the project (96th to 125th), and in 2007, the MTA reported that this segment was in pristine condition.[31] The section of tunnel adjacent to Confucius Plaza, however, will not be used under the current preferred alternative; there are maintenance offices in the tunnel that block the way, and in June 2005, it was shown to be lightly graffitied.[33] Instead, the current proposal calls for the subway to pass under Confucius Plaza, which is adjacent to this segment. In the adjacent Chrystie Street Connection area, plans call for an additional two tracks in the Chrystie Street area for the Second Avenue mainline; current plans have the new tracks under the old ones, while older plans had one track on each side of the Chrystie Street Connection through the Grand Street station.[34] Some construction work also took place between 2nd and 9th Streets, though the extent is disputed. Some reports say that only utilities were relocated, while others that it was excavated but filled back in.[30]

2000s–present: Need for development

With the city's economic and budgetary recovery in the 1990s, there was a revival of efforts to complete construction of the SAS. Rising ridership on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line, the only subway trunk line east of Central Park, demonstrated the need for the Second Avenue Line, as capacity and safety concerns rose. The four-track IRT Lexington Avenue Line, the lone rapid transit option in the Upper East Side and East Harlem since the 1955 closure of the Third Avenue elevated, is the most crowded subway line in the country. The line sees an average of 1.3 million daily riders, more than the entire Washington Metro system (which has the second-highest ridership in the U.S.) and more than the rail transit systems of San Francisco and Boston combined.[35] Local bus routes are just as crowded during various times of the day, with the surface Second Avenue Line, carrying the M15 and M15 SBS buses, seeing an annual ridership of 17.5 million, or a daily ridership of about 47,945.[36] The construction of the Second Avenue line would add another two tracks to fill the gap that has existed since the elevated Second and Third Avenue Lines were demolished.[35]

The MTA's final environmental impact statement was approved in April 2004; the latest proposal is for a two-track line from 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in Harlem, down Second Avenue to Hanover Square in the Financial District. The new subway line will actually carry two services. The full-length Second Avenue line, extending from Harlem to the Financial District, is to be given the color turquoise and the letter designation T.[37] However, a rerouted Q, the line's other service, will begin carrying passengers first. The MTA plan calls for building the Second Avenue Subway in four segments with connections to other subway lines. The first segment (Phase One) is a proposed reroute of the Q, the Broadway Express via the 63rd Street Line and north along Second Avenue to the Upper East Side at 96th Street. Phase Two will extend the rerouted Q train to 125th Street. In Phase Three, the new T train will run from 63rd Street to Houston Street. The final phase will extend T train service from Houston Street to Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan.[38] Track maps on the MTA's website show that all stations, except for Hanover Square and 125th Street, will have two tracks and one island platform.[39][40] (72nd Street was conceived as a three-track, two-platform station, as are 125th Street and Hanover Square. However, the 72nd Street station is being constructed with two tracks and one platform.)[41][42]

In August 2006, the MTA revealed that all future subway stations, including ones built for the Second Avenue subway, the 7 Subway Extension, and the new South Ferry station will be outfitted with air-cooling systems to reduce the temperature along platforms by as much as 10 °F (6 °C).[43] The Second Avenue Subway was also to have platform screen doors to assist with air-cooling and ventilation, but this plan was scrapped in 2012 as cost-prohibitive.[44][45]

The first phase will be within budget, at $4.45 billion.[46] The total cost of the 8.5-mile (13.7 km) line is expected to exceed $17 billion.[2] According to MTA Capital Construction President Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, the whole line may be completed as early as 2029[47] and would serve 560,000 daily passengers upon completion.[48]

2007–present: First phase construction

An early computer-generated image of a future Second Avenue Subway station
Ceiling of 86th Street station (December 2013)

Second Avenue Subway plans for Phase 1 were only allowed to proceed because New York voters passed a transportation bond issue on November 8, 2005, allowing for dedicated funding allocated for that phase. Its passage had been seen as critical to its construction. After warning that failure to pass the act would doom the project, MTA chairman Peter S. Kalikow stated that "Now it's up to us to complete the job" given its approval by a 55–45 percent margin.[49] In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced, on December 18, 2006, that they would allow the MTA to commit up to $693 million in funds to begin construction of the Second Avenue Subway Line and that the federal share of such costs would be reimbursed with FTA transit funds, subject to appropriations and final labor certification.[50]

The Phase 1 construction site is from 105th Street and Second Avenue to 63rd Street and Third Avenue.[51] Deep bore tunneling methods were to be used in order to avoid the disruptions for road traffic, pedestrians, utilities and local businesses produced by cut-and-cover methods of past generations. Stations were to retain cut-and-cover construction.[52]

Preliminary engineering and a final tunnel design was completed by a joint venture between AECOM and Arup.[53][54][55] On March 20, 2007, upon completion of preliminary engineering, the MTA awarded a contract for constructing the tunnels between 92nd and 63rd Streets, a launch box for the tunnel boring machine (TBM) at 92nd to 95th Streets, and access shafts at 69th and 72nd Streets. This contract, valued at $337 million, was awarded to S3, a joint venture of Schiavone Construction, Skanska USA Civil, and J.F. Shea Construction.[56][57][58][59][60] A ceremonial groundbreaking took place on April 12, 2007, in a tunnel segment built in the 1970s at 99th Street.[61] At the time, it was announced that passengers would be able to ride trains on the new line by the end of 2013.[62] Actual construction work began, on the surface of Second Avenue between 91st and 95th Streets, on April 23, 2007. Initial construction work involved moving utility pipes, wires, and other infrastructure, which took 14 months, far more than the MTA's anticipated eight months. For boring, a trench was dug from 96th to 93rd Streets.[63]

In November 2007, Mary Peters, the United States Secretary of Transportation, announced that the Second Avenue Subway would receive $1.3 billion in federal funding for the project's first phase, to be funded over a seven-year period.[64] However, due to cost increases for construction materials and diesel fuel affecting the prices of contracts not yet signed, the MTA announced in June 2008 that certain features of the Second Avenue Subway would be simplified to save money. One set of changes, which significantly reduces the footprint of the subway in the vicinity of 72nd Street, is the alteration of the 72nd Street Station from a three-track, two-platform design to a two-track, single island platform design, paired with a simplification of the connection to the Broadway Line spur.[41][42] Supplemental environmental impact studies covering the changes to for the proposed 72nd Street and 86th Street stations were completed in June 2009.[65][66][67]

The track junction with the BMT 63rd Street Line south of 72nd Street

On May 28, 2009, the MTA awarded a $303.8 million contract to E.E. Cruz and Tully Construction Co., a joint venture and limited liability company, to construct the 96th Street station box.[68] Work began in July on site clearing and utility relocation necessary to prepare for the installation of slurry walls between 95th and 99th Streets where the station connects to the existing tunnel section. In June 2009, the first of three contracts for the 86th Street station was awarded for the advance utility relocation work and construction of cut and cover shaft areas at 83rd and 86th Streets. This contract provided two vertical starter shafts that were used by a subsequent contractor to excavate the station cavern in the rock between 83rd and 86th Streets.[69]

During construction, two buildings had to be evacuated in June 2009 due to construction work. On June 5, 2009, an apartment building at 1772 Second Avenue was evacuated by the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) after it was determined that the building was in danger of collapse.[70] Then on June 29, 2009, the DOB evacuated a mixed use building at 1768 Second Avenue/301 East 92nd Street because it too was in danger of collapse.[71] The evacuation of these two buildings delayed the contractor's plan to use controlled blasting to remove bedrock in the southern section of the launch box.[72] Until the blasting permits could be issued, MTA required contractors to use mechanical equipment to remove the bedrock, which is slower than blasting out the rock.[73] As of October 2009, one building had been shored up, and work was in progress on the second; MTA had rescheduled blasting to begin during the week of November 2.[74]

The tunnel boring machine was originally expected to arrive six to eight months after construction began, but the utility relocation and excavation required to create its "launch box" delayed its deployment until May 2010.[53] On May 14, 2010, MTA's contractors completed the TBM installation and turned it on at the Second Avenue Subway launch box at 96th Street and boring southward to connecting shafts built at 86th and 72nd Streets.[75][76][77][78][79]

On October 1, 2010, MTA awarded a $431 million contract to joint venture SSK Constructors for the mining of the tunnels connecting the 72nd Street station to the existing Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station, and for the excavation and heavy civil structures of the 72nd Street station. Subsequent contracts will be awarded for the following: excavation of the cavern at the 86th Street station; architectural and mechanical and electrical work at 72nd, 86th and 96th Street stations; rehabilitation of the Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station; and the Systems Contract (track, signals and communications) for the entire Phase 1 area. In January 2011, MTA awarded Judlau Contracting a 40-month, $176,400,000 contract to rebuild and enlarge the Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station.[80][81]

Workers celebrate after the TBM reaches the BMT 63rd Street Line.

Meanwhile, the tunnel boring machine dug at a rate of approximately 50 feet (15 m) per day. The machine finished its run at the planned endpoint under 65th Street on February 5, 2011.[82] S3 partially disassembled the TBM and backed it out of the tunnel. It was repositioned in the east starter tunnel to begin boring again.[83] Because the east side of Second Avenue has some soft ground not compatible with the Robbins TBM, ground-freezing was undertaken to prepare the soil for the TBM.[76][84][85] On March 28, 2011, S3, having completed its task of completing the 7,200-foot (2,200 m) west tunnel to 65th Street, began drilling the east tunnel, with the first 200 feet (61 m) being through soil frozen by S3 using calcium chloride fed through a network of pipes.[86] The TBM drilling the east tunnel will negotiate the curve onto 63rd Street and break through the bellmouth at the existing 63rd Street subway station. The portion of the west tunnel remaining to be created will be mined using conventional drill-and-blast methods, because the curve S3 construction teams would have to negotiate is too tight for the TBM. On September 22, 2011, the TBM completed its run to the Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station's bellmouth.[87][88]

On a July 2013 "report card" that indicated the progress of the subway by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the construction progress got a "B".[89]

By the winter of 2013, many of the tracks and signal panels began to arrive at the construction site, to be installed on the line over the next few years.[1] It was reported in November 2013 that one third of the tracks for the line had arrived, for the segments of track between 87th and 105th Streets;[1] the tracks were being stored at 96th Street station.[90] As of May 21, 2015, the first phase of construction was more than 80% complete.[91] By August 2015, the construction project was 84.3% complete, with all 10 Phase 1 construction contracts having been awarded and 5 of them having been completed.[92]

Construction and planning schedules

Tracks in the subway tunnel being laid in February 2015

The MTA and its contractors on the project meet on a regular basis with the Manhattan Community Board 8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force and Manhattan Community Board 11 to report on construction progress and to seek input from the community.[93]

The MTA's forecasted opening date for Phase I is December 30, 2016, as of January 2, 2015.[1][94][95][96][97] Horodniceanu called earlier estimates lacking "the precision required."[44] On May 2, 2014, it was reported that Phase 1 of the line was 66% complete, and six of the ten construction contracts awarded were already being worked on. The agency was still targeting December 2016 as a completion date, and the project is still within budget at a cost of $4.45 billion,[98][99][100][101][102] while serving approximately 200,000 daily riders. As of April 2015, the first phase is 82% complete.[103]

Estimated completion schedules have been widely varying. As of 2009, the proposed construction schedule showed the Second Avenue Subway opening for passenger service in 2016.[104] Other publications have listed expected construction dates for Phase 1, as well as mentioned the possible December 2016 opening.[105][106] In its 2008 capital improvement budget proposal, the MTA pushed back completion of Phase 1 from 2014 to 2015, and in 2009, the MTA pushed it back again to 2016.[107] As of January 2015, the line is still scheduled to open in December 2016.[94][108]


The Second Avenue Subway project has not been uncontroversial. In February 2011, a lawsuit was filed by the Yorkshire Towers at 86th Street over the location of two proposed Second Avenue Subway entrances that were located right in front of the building but facing away from its semicircular driveway.[109][110] The quality of life for building tenants was allegedly to be destroyed if the entrances were to be built in the location;[109] however, the lawsuit was later dismissed.[111][112] In an unrelated 2012 controversy, some residents in the 72nd Street station area claimed to have come down with a "Second Avenue cough" caused by dust from construction,[113] and local doctors saw that the air quality of the area had decreased while nasal sicknesses had increased.[114] The MTA tried to combat this by creating new structures and using other methods to reduce dust inhalation.[115] It also prepared a report that said that air quality in the 86th Street station area was okay.[116]

The New York Daily News alleged that the subway project was very unsafe. For example, on August 8, 2012, an explosion caused rocks to fly all over an intersection.[113][117] Nearly two weeks later, on August 21, 2012, an uncontrolled blast for the station was done incorrectly,[118] causing a large explosion that sent debris into the air and broke windows of buildings in the area and damaged nearby sidewalks.[113][117][119][120][121] In another instance, contaminated rocks were carried away from a construction site on 63rd Street, and the incident went unnoticed.[113] On March 19, 2013, in yet another allegation of wrongdoing, a construction worker got stuck in waist-deep muck at the 96th Street station site,[122][123] but while he was extricated after four hours of rescue efforts, he nearly died after the incident.[124][125]

In a product-related controversy involving the Second Avenue Subway project, American Standard Testing and Consulting Laboratories, company president Alan Fortich, and five other executives admitted filing false documents on the subway tunnels and "thousands" of other New York City construction projects within 10 years. ASTCL had replaced Testwell Inc., another firm indicted for faking concrete tests, in 2008.[126]

Construction methods

72nd Street station cavern as of January 2012
Tunnel at 64th Street
83rd Street
Second Avenue Subway Community Information Center

Planned construction methods varied depending on the section of the line, due to varying underground conditions. The methods planned for each section were as follows:[127]

Streets Construction method Streets Construction method Streets Construction method
Lex–2 Aves Tunnel Boring Machine 101–95 Cut and Cover 43–41 Mined with Cut and Cover
125–123 Mined with Cut and Cover 95–87 Tunnel Boring Machine 41–34 Tunnel Boring Machine
123–120 Tunnel Boring Machine 87–84 Mined with Cut and Cover 34–32 Cut and Cover
120–117 Existing 84–73 Tunnel Boring Machine 32–24 Tunnel Boring Machine
117–114 Cut and Cover 73–71 Mined with Cut and Cover 24–22 Mined with Cut and Cover
114–109 Existing 71–58 Tunnel Boring Machine 22–15 Tunnel Boring Machine
109–106 Cut and Cover 58–56 Cut and Cover 15–11 Cut and Cover
106–101 Existing 56–43 Tunnel Boring Machine 11–Hanover Undecided

A number of methods will be used to tunnel for 13.7 kilometers (8.5 mi) underneath Manhattan, which is densely populated. About 90% of the tunneling is to be performed by a tunnel boring machine. The rest will be done using the cut and cover method and mined drill and blast, for sections, generally the 16 stations, that average 275 meters (902 ft) in length. The stations at 86th and 72nd Streets were mined. This was challenging, given the number of expensive high rise properties in their vicinities. The 96th Street cut-and-cover station was about 15 meters (49 ft) deep, making it one of the shallowest stations being built on the line; the shallowness was so that the new line could align with the preexisting piece of subway tunnel built in the 1970s between 99th and 105th Streets. Stations at the two mined stations are between 25.9 and 27.4 meters (85 and 90 ft) deep in rock. The construction method that was used was supposed to ease concerns for buildings above the station sites, because only two shafts were required for excavation.[128]

In Phase 1, there was tunneling between East 63rd and 92nd Streets and a 248-by-23-meter-wide (814 by 75 ft) TBM launch box was built. That tunnel box is now part of the 96th Street station. Two access shafts were constructed for the 72nd Street station. Slurry or diaphragm walls, 1.1 meters (3.6 ft) wide and 6.1 meters (20 ft) long and about 35 meters (115 ft) deep, were built alongside the sections between East 93rd and 95th Streets. Since the rock is shallower between East 91st and 93rd Streets, 1.1-meter-diameter (3.6 ft) secant piles did the same work at shallower depths.[128]

Earth excavation was conducted between walls once they were installed, and box structures were built using a bottom-up construction method. Temporary decking constituted the top of the boxes, and the decking both braced the excavation and supported the walls and Second Avenue traffic.[128] Of the below-ground obstacles, Arup director of construction David Caiden stated: "It’s a spaghetti of tunnels, utilities, pipes and cables — I’ve never seen anything like it."[128] Complicating the process, the project must go over, or under, subway lines, Amtrak railway lines, and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel linking Manhattan and Queens, in later phases.[128]

There were geological anomalies along the way. Manhattan's geology changes along the subway’s length, passing through rock and soft ground, consisting of sands, silts, and clays over Manhattan schist, and there are faults and shear zones as well as fractured rock. Hard-rock Tunnel Boring Machines 6.7 meters (22 ft) in diameter tunneled during the first phase, progressing at a rate of about 20 meters (66 ft) per day.[128]

The stations on the line were built so that they are more wide open than most other underground subway stations in the system;[129] because of this, they were likened to the stations on the Washington Metro by Dr. Michael Horodniceanu.[130]

Planned route and stations

The plans for the Second Avenue Subway involve digging 8.5 miles (13.7 km) of new tunnel from 125th Street in Harlem south to Hanover Square, which is located in Manhattan's Financial District.[131][132] Initially, during Phase I, the line will begin at the intersection of Second Avenue and 96th Street, running south to join the BMT Broadway Line via the existing BMT 63rd Street Line. Phase I stations will be located at 96th Street, 86th Street and 72nd Street.[131][132] Plans call for the Q service to be routed to 96th Street,[132] and then in Phase 4 to 125th Street and Lexington Avenue.[132] After Phase 3, a new T service[133] will operate from 125th Street to Houston Street.[132] After Phase 4 opens, T service will run the full length of the line, from 125th Street to Hanover Square.[132]

The proposed stations of the Second Avenue Line are as follows:[131]

Handicapped/disabled access Station Phase Transfers & Notes
Provision for expansion crosstown along 125th Street
Handicapped/disabled access 125th Street 2 4 5 6 <6> trains (IRT Lexington Avenue Line) at Lexington Avenue and 125th Street
M60 Select Bus Service to LaGuardia Airport
connection to Harlem – 125th Street (Metro-North Railroad)
northern terminal station for Q train (Phase 2) and T train (Phase 3)
Provision for expansion to The Bronx
Handicapped/disabled access 116th Street 2
Handicapped/disabled access 106th Street 2
Handicapped/disabled access 96th Street 1 northern terminal station for Q train in Phase 1
Handicapped/disabled access 86th Street 1
Handicapped/disabled access 72nd Street 1
Q train splits to BMT Broadway Line via BMT 63rd Street Line (Phase 1)
T train continues down Second Avenue (Phase 3)
Handicapped/disabled access 55th Street[note 2] 3 E M trains (IND Queens Boulevard Line) at Lexington Avenue – 53rd Street
4 6 <6> trains (IRT Lexington Avenue Line) at 51st Street
Handicapped/disabled access 42nd Street[note 2] 3 7 <7> trains (IRT Flushing Line)
S trains (IRT 42nd Street Shuttle)
4 5 6 <6> trains (IRT Lexington Avenue Line) at Grand Central – 42nd Street
connection to Grand Central Terminal (Metro-North Railroad & Long Island Rail Road once East Side Access Project is completed)
Handicapped/disabled access 34th Street 3
Handicapped/disabled access 23rd Street 3
Handicapped/disabled access 14th Street[note 2] 3 L trains (BMT Canarsie Line) at Third Avenue
Handicapped/disabled access Houston Street[note 2] 3 F trains (IND Sixth Avenue Line) at Second Avenue
southern terminal station for T train (Phase 3)
Handicapped/disabled access Grand Street 4 B D trains (IND Sixth Avenue Line) at Grand Street
Handicapped/disabled access Chatham Square 4 at Worth Street
Handicapped/disabled access Seaport 4 at Fulton Street
Handicapped/disabled access Hanover Square 4 at Old Slip
southern terminal station for T train (Phase 4)
Provision for expansion to Brooklyn

At the conclusion of Phase 4, the above stations will serve the Second Avenue Line's main service, the T, which terminates at 125th Street and at Hanover Square.[131] In addition to the main service, dubbed the T and colored turquoise, a connection is planned to the BMT Broadway Line, utilizing an existing connection via the BMT 63rd Street Line, as part of phase 1.[131] The Q service will most likely be extended northward from 57th Street – Seventh Avenue, curving east under Central Park on the unused portion of the BMT 63rd Street Line.[131] The Q train would stop at Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street with a cross-platform interchange to the IND 63rd Street Line (F train) before merging with the Second Avenue Line at 64th Street.[131] Thus, after Phase 4 is completed the residents of Spanish Harlem and the Upper East Side will have direct mass transit service down both Second Avenue and Broadway to the Financial District, and across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn via the Q train.[131][132]

An additional two-track connection is planned between the line toward Lower Manhattan (around 63rd Street) and the IND 63rd Street Line toward Queens; current plans don't call for it to be used by regular service.[131][132] Provisions are also being made for an extension north under Second Avenue past 125th Street to the Bronx, and an extension south to Brooklyn.[131][132]

However, funding for other phases has been lacking:

  • Phase 2 (125th St. to 96th St.) $1.5 billion in funding was proposed in the MTA's 2015–2019 Capital Plan, of which $525 million has been approved for planning, design, and environmental studies.[134] Construction would most likely not start until 2019 at the earliest.[135][136] However, the Capital Plan is underfunded and the second phase cannot be built without the funds.[137]
  • Phase 3 (63rd St. to Houston St.) No funding commitments.[108]
  • Phase 4 (Houston St. to Hanover Square) No funding commitments.[108]

Planned designation

The MTA had decided to designate the future, full-length Second Avenue service with the letter T, in part because:[138]

  • The letters O and I are too easily confused with the digits 0 and 1, respectively.[138][139]
  • The letters H and K were used until the late 1980s to denote services on the IND Eighth Avenue Line, as well as on the BMT Jamaica Line, and thus are not preferred. H, in addition, is also the Rockaway Park Shuttle's internal route designator.[138]
  • The letter P was supposedly rejected on the whim of one of the Second Avenue Subway's planners.[138]
  • The letters U and Y were more easily confused with words rather than letters.[139]

The T‍ '​s route emblem was colored turquoise (hex triplet #00ADD0, which could also be considered robin's egg blue or teal) because the color had also been used for the JFK Express in the past. In 2011, turquoise was considered "the color of the year", and at the time of the color's selection in the 2000s, it was also considered a very upscale color.[37]

See also


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External links

  • Second Avenue Subway – Project Home – the MTA's homepage for this project
  • Second Avenue Subway Photos – MTA's Flickr Website
  • Second Avenue Subway: A New York Transit Museum on-line exhibit
  • The Launch Box – a blog about building the Second Avenue Subway
  • The Second Avenue Sagas – blog about New York City transit; hosts news from the Second Avenue Subway project
  • The Second Avenue Subway –
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