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The Second Avenue Subway (SAS), refers to a series of public works projects and engineering studies undertaken to construct a subway underneath Second Avenue in the borough of Manhattan as part of the New York City Subway system. A dream for more than three quarters of a century, Second Avenue has yet to see significant progress towards this goal. The SAS is often cited as a particularly egregious example of bureaucratic red tape and government ineptitude. However, the reasons for its failure to appear thus far are varied and complex.
Originally proposed in 1929 as part of the massive IND Second System, the need for the Second Avenue Subway line has grown over the years, especially in recent years, as the East Side of Manhattan has experienced significant residential development. Currently, the lone rapid transit option on the Upper East Side is the four-track IRT Lexington Avenue Line, the most crowded in the country. Its average of 1.3 million daily riders is "more than the combined ridership of San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston's entire transit systems." (FEIS, p. 1–6). Its ridership also exceeds that of the 614,000 daily trips on the entire Washington Metro. (FEIS, p. 1–5). Local bus routes are just as crowded during various times of the day. The SAS would add another two tracks to fill the gap that has existed since the elevated IRT Second Avenue Line was demolished in 1940-42 and IRT Third Avenue Line was removed in the 1950s.
New York voters approved bond acts for its construction in 1951 and in 1967. 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. The proceeds of the 1967 bond act were partly used to begin tunneling under Second Avenue. Digging began in 1972; however, a few years later, the city became insolvent. "It's the most famous thing that's never been built in New York City, so everyone is skeptical and rightly so," said Gene Russianoff, an advocate for subway riders since 1981. "It's much-promised and never delivered."
On November 8, 2005, voters in New York State passed the Transportation Bond Act, which will, among other projects, partially fund construction of the line. Its passage had been seen as critical to its construction. In fact, the MTA chairman stated that it meant the line "will" be constructed.
In August 2006, the MTA revealed that all future subway stations, including ones built for the Second Avenue subway, the No. 7 line extension, and the new South Ferry station will be outfitted with special air-cooling systems to reduce the temperature along platforms.
The need for a subway line under Manhattan's Second Avenue was realized shortly after the First World War. In 1919, New York's Public Service Commission launched a study at the behest of engineer Daniel L. Turner to determine what improvements were needed in the city's public transport system.
The Turner PlanEdit
Turner's final paper, titled Proposed Comprehensive Rapid Transit System, was a massive plan calling for new routes under almost every north-south Manhattan avenue, extensions to lines in Brooklyn and Queens, and several crossings of The Narrows to Staten Island. Massively scaled-down versions of some of Turner's plans were found in proposals for the new city-owned Independent Subway System (IND). Among the plans for Phase II of the IND's construction, commonly called the Second System, was a massive trunk line under Second Avenue consisting of at least six tracks and numerous branches throughout Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
IND Second SystemEdit
In 1929, the New York City Board of Transportation tentatively approved the IND Second System, which included a Second Avenue Line with a projected construction cost of $98,900,000, not counting land acquisition. From north to south, the 1929 plan included four tracks from the Harlem River (where it would continue north as a Bronx trunk line with several branches) to 125th Street, six tracks from 125th Street to a link with the IND Sixth Avenue Line at 61st Street, four tracks from 61st Street to Chambers Street, and two tracks from Chambers Street to Pine Street.
Due to the Great Depression, the soaring costs of the Second System became unmanageable. Construction on the first phase of the IND was already behind schedule, and the city and state were no longer able to provide funding. A scaled down proposal including a turnoff at 34th Street and a connection crosstown was postponed in 1931.
Further revision of the plan and more studies followed. By 1939, construction had been postponed indefinitely, and Second Avenue was relegated to "proposed" status. The 1939 plan for subway expansion took the line not only into the Bronx (by now as a single line to Throgs Neck) but also south into Brooklyn, connecting to the stub of the IND Fulton Street Line at Court Street.
Finally, in 1945, plans for the Second Avenue Subway were again revised. The southern two-track portion was abandoned as a possible future plan for connecting the line to Brooklyn. By 1950, the plans called for a connection from Second Avenue at 76th Street to 34th Avenue in Queens, via a new tunnel under the East River. The city was able to raise money for the construction effort — just barely — but the onset of the Korean War caused soaring prices for construction materials and saw the beginning of massive inflation.
A 1947 plan once again connected the Second Avenue Line to Brooklyn, but via the BMT trackage over the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. A connection would allow trains from these bridges to go onto the IND Sixth Avenue Line rather than 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.
A 1954 plan added another feeder, an East River tunnel at 76th Street, connecting existing Long Island Rail Road trackage (which would be converted for subway use) to the Second Avenue Line towards downtown. This plan has been revitalized as part of the 2005 Transportation Bond Act, which would connect the LIRR trackage to Park Avenue via the 63rd Street Tunnel as part of the East Side Access project.
The southernmost part of the 1947 plan, connecting the two BMT bridges to the IND Sixth Avenue Line, was built in the 1960s and opened in 1967 as the Chrystie Street Connection. Other parts of that plan were carried out, including the connection at 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. Plans now 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.
1970s: Completed segmentsEdit
In 1964, the Congress passed the Urban Mass Transit Act, promising federal money to fund mass transit projects in America's cities via the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. In 1967, voters approved a massive $2.5 billion Transportation Bond Issue, which provided over $600 million for New York City projects. The Second Avenue project was given top priority, and would stretch from 34th Street to The Bronx. The City secured a UMTA grant for initial construction, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 27, 1972. Construction began shortly thereafter at 2nd Avenue and 113th Street.
However, the city soon experienced its most dire fiscal crisis yet. The stagnant economy of the 1970s, combined with massive outflow of city residents to the suburbs, led to fiscal disaster for the city. Construction of the subway was halted, with only three sections of tunnel having been completed, in addition to the Chrystie Street Connection. These sections are between Pell and Canal Street, 99th and 105th, and 110th and 120th Streets. The two northern sections between 99th and 105th, and 110th and 120th Streets, will be used in Phase 2 of the current SAS plan (96th to 125th). The section from Pell to Canal will not be used under the current preferred alternative, which will bring the line a few blocks away from this section. Construction was also begun between 2nd and 9th Streets, though the extent is unknown; some rumors say that only utilities were relocated, while others say that it was excavated but filled back in.
Beginning with the city's economic recovery in the 1990s, efforts were again made to complete construction of the SAS. Rising ridership on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line, the only subway trunk line east of Central Park in Manhattan, further pushed the need for the Second Avenue Line as capacity and safety concerns rose. 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, which probably will be given the T service, is proposed to be built in four segments with numerous connections to other subway lines. The first segment (phase 1) is a proposed stub line from the Upper East Side at 96th Street with a connection via the BMT 63rd Street Line to the BMT Broadway Line for service downtown. The other three segments, in the order that they are proposed to be built, are 125th Street to 96th Street (phase 2), 63rd Street to Houston Street (phase 3) and Houston Street to Hanover Square, Manhattan (phase 4).
Because New York voters passed a transportation bond issue in November 2005, state funding is now in place for section 1 and the MTA is actively seeking a full funding agreement from the Federal Government to complete phase 1. The general consensus is that phase 2 will also be built, especially since it will take advantage of 15 blocks of subway tunnels that were built in the 1970s above 99th Street and are still in usable condition.
The lower Manhattan segments are less certain, but population pressures might force them to be built as well, especially if phases 1 and 2 are built without too many problems. The East Side Access project, which will bring thousands of Long Island Rail Road commuters into Grand Central Terminal by 2013, will put even more pressure on the overburdened Lexington Avenue Line and is certain to help push along the lower portion of the Second Avenue Line project (phases 3 and 4) as the city comes to grips with pressure for new East Side subway service.
Phase 1 is in the advanced planning stages, including final design, and construction contracts are expected to be awarded in the Spring of 2007. The subway will be built with deep bore tunneling methods, avoiding the cumbersome utility relocation and cut-and-cover methods of past generations that made subway building a major inconvenience for traffic, pedestrians and store owners. Only the stations will use cut-and-cover construction. Efforts are underway to minimize the impacts of this construction.
The Federal Transit Administration announced that it expects the first section of the project (96th Street to 63rd Street) to enter the Final Design phase on April 18, 2006. This is a significant step towards obtaining the necessary federal funding to start construction.
Media reports in late October 2006 indicate that the MTA is ready to solicit bids shortly and award contracts by the end of 2006 for tunneling associated with Phase I of the 2nd Avenue Subway project. Actual construction is expected about 6 to 8 months after contract awards, or during the Summer of 2007.
Planned construction methodsEdit
|Street||Construction method||Street||Construction method||Street||Construction method||Street||Construction method|
|124-125||Cut and Cover||96-97||Cut and Cover||68-69||TBM||40-41||TBM|
|123-124||Cut and Cover||95-96||Cut and Cover||67-68||TBM||39-40||TBM|
|122-123||Cut and Cover||94-95||TBM||66-67||TBM||38-39||TBM|
|121-122||Cut and Cover||93-94||TBM||65-66||TBM||37-38||TBM|
|120-121||Cut and Cover||92-93||TBM||64-65||TBM||36-37||TBM|
|117-118||Existing||89-90||TBM||61-62||TBM||33-34||Cut and Cover|
|116-117||Cut and Cover||88-89||TBM||60-61||TBM||32-33||Cut and Cover|
|115-116||Cut and Cover||87-88||TBM||59-60||TBM||31-32||TBM|
|114-115||Cut and Cover||86-87||Mined with Cut and Cover||58-59||TBM||30-31||TBM|
|113-114||Existing||85-86||Mined with Cut and Cover||57-58||Cut and Cover||29-30||TBM|
|112-113||Existing||84-85||Mined with Cut and Cover||56-57||Cut and Cover||28-29||TBM|
|108-109||Cut and Cover||80-81||TBM||52-53||TBM||24-25||TBM|
|107-108||Cut and Cover||79-80||TBM||51-52||TBM||23-24||Mined with Cut and Cover|
|106-107||Cut and Cover||78-79||TBM||50-51||TBM||22-23||Mined with Cut and Cover|
|100-101||Existing||72-73||Mined with Cut and Cover||44-45||TBM||16-17||TBM|
|99-100||Existing||71-72||Mined with Cut and Cover||43-44||TBM||15-16||TBM|
|98-99||Existing||70-71||TBM||42-43||Mined with Cut and Cover||14-15||Cut and Cover|
|97-98||Cut and Cover||69-70||TBM||41-42||Mined with Cut and Cover||13-14||Cut and Cover|
Planned SAS Route/StationsEdit
The plans for the Second Avenue Subway involve digging 8.5 miles of new track from 125th Street in Harlem south to Hanover Square in the Financial District. 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. It is anticipated that the Q service will be extended from its current terminus at 57th Street–Seventh Avenue to 96th Street, and then in Phase II to 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. After Phase III, the new T service will operate from 125th Street to Houston Street, and after Phase IV to Hanover Square.
The new stations of the completed Second Avenue Line are proposed as follows:
|Station||Phase||Possible transfers & notes|
|Northern terminal station for Q (Phase 2) and T (Phase 3) services|
|125th Street||2||4 5|
|96th Street||1||Northern terminal station for Q in Phase 1|
|Q splits to BMT Broadway Line via BMT 63rd Street Line (Phase 1); T continues down Second Avenue (Phase 3)|
|55th Street||3||E V|
|42nd Street||3||7 <7>|
|14th Street||3||L (BMT Canarsie Line) at Third Avenue station|
|Houston Street||3||F V|
|Grand Street||4||B D (IND Sixth Avenue Line)below existing Grand Street station|
|Chatham Square||4||at Worth Street|
|Seaport||4||at Fulton Street|
|Hanover Square||4||at Old Slip|
The above stations will serve the Second Avenue main service, terminating at 125th Street and at Hanover Square. In addition to the main service, tentatively dubbed the T, and colored light blue, a connection is planned to the BMT Broadway Line, utilizing an existing connection via the BMT 63rd Street Line, as part of phase 1. It is likely that the Q service will be extended northward from 57th Street–Seventh Avenue, curving east under Central Park on the unused portion of the BMT 63rd Street Line. The Q train would stop at Lexington Avenue–63rd Street with a cross-platform transfer to the IND 63rd Street Line (F) before merging with the Second Avenue Line at 64th Street. Thus, residents of Spanish Harlem and the Upper East Side will have direct mass transit service down Second Avenue to the Financial District as well as direct service down Broadway to the Financial District and across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn.
An additional two-track connection is planned between the line towards Lower Manhattan (around 62nd Street) and the IND 63rd Street Line towards Queens; current plans don't call for it to be used by regular service. Provisions are also being made for an extension north under Second Avenue past 125th Street to the Bronx, and an extension south to Brooklyn. No track connection will be provided to the IND Chrystie Street Connection.
Just north of Broome Street, the subway will pass under a short unused highway tunnel, the only part of the Lower Manhattan Expressway to be built.
While construction has not yet begun, with the recent passage of the Transportation Bond Act, it is expected to begin soon.
- 2012-2015: Phase 1 (96th St. to 63rd St.) State Funding In-Place, Federal Funding Approved. Phase I entered final design in the Spring of 2006. Construction contracts are expected to be awarded in late 2006 and digging is set to start in Summer 2007, according to numerous media reports in late October 2006.
- 2014-2017: Phase 2 (125th St. to 96th St.) Engineering ongoing. No funding commitments.
- 2015-2018: Phase 3 (63rd St. to Houston St.) Engineering ongoing. No funding commitments.
- 2017-2020: Phase 4 (Houston St. to Hanover Sqr.) Engineering ongoing. No funding commitments.
This timeline is subject to change.
A similar public works project in New York, the $6.3 Billion LIRR East Side Access project, which will bring the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Terminal, has moved along rather smoothly since its inception in the late 1990s. Full funding has been provided for this public works project to complete it within the estimated 11 year timeframe, while the 2nd Avenue Subway has made virtually no progress for seven decades.
- New York City Subway
- IND Second System
- Chrystie Street Connection
- Transportation in New York City
- THE Tunnel
- ↑ Cooler subways coming - eventually, New York Daily News, August 4, 2006
- ↑ FAQ: Completed Portions of the 2nd Avenue Subway, accessed August 4, 2006
- ↑ New York's Subway System Finally Starting Major Expansion, newyork.construction.com, May 2006 issue
- ↑ 2nd Ave subway could get early start AM New York, October 24, 2006
- ↑ FEDS FINALLY ABOARD 2ND AVENUE $UBWAY, New York Post, April 17, 2006
- Construction Status and Information (Unofficial site)
- The Second Avenue Subway - nycsubway.org
- Completed Portions of the 2nd Avenue Subway - nycsubway.org
- The Second Avenue Subway Line . . . the line that almost never was - nycsubway.org
- MTA 2nd Avenue Project Resources
- Subway Expansion to Cost $400,000,000 Proposed for City, New York Times December 15, 1947 page 1
- Final Environmental Impact Statement ("FEIS") for the Second Avenue Subway, accessed July 13, 2006.