Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 24, 2009

Here's a new posting that's just in time for the holidays.

To start with, here's a copy of the MTA's recently released 16-page Quarterly Report for Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway project. This particular report covers the period July, August and September 2009.

The MTA should be applauded (yes, applauded!) for their willingness to release reports like this to the public. To the best of my knowledge this is the 1st time that this report has been made available on the MTA's web site.

A complete copy of the report can be found on this link:
3Q2009 Quarterly Report, Second Avenue Subway, Phase 1

The report is full of interesting information about the project, as one might imagine. Here are a few points that I found to be particularly noteworthy:

The report says that Contract 1 is 53% complete (as of 9/30/09) by "invoice construction work" as of 9/30/2009. (This is the same number that the MTA announced at the last meeting of Community Board 8's Second Avenue Subway Task Force.)

So apparently, the MTA calculates how far along they are based on how much of the cost has been invoiced ($200,068,420) vs. the Estimate at Completion (EAC) cost ($377,365,064) for this contract. The "53% complete" number that was given out at the last CB8 SAS Task Force meeting should have been qualified -- since no one would have ever imagined that this how the MTA came up with this percentage. (page 6)

The report goes on to say that the safety record associated with Contract 1 is much lower than comparable figures that are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. e.g.. the OSHA recordable incident ratio is 1.92 compared to the industry Average of 4.9. The workers and the contractors on this project deserve a lot of credit for this very good news. (page 7)

And shown below you have a detailed schedule, as of 9/30/2009 (page 13).

(left-click on the image above for a version that is readable)

The report also includes a very detailed budget for the project (shown below). Near the bottom of the budget sheet is a line (highlighted below) that I've never heard anyone talk about before.

Total Project Cost - $4,451,000,000
Estimated Financing Cost - $ 816,614,000
Totals Including Financing Cost - $5,267,614,000

I'd assume that this is the financing cost that is associated with the local share of the project. (i.e. debt service, etc.)

Interestingly, most everyone has been reporting that the total cost of Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway is $4.451 Billion -- when in fact the number is actually more like $5.268 Billion. (page 15)

And on page 16 (as shown below) you find a very detailed listing of where all the money for this project is coming from.

- - -

Here are two excellent video reports on the Second Avenue Subway project -- which include a few good quotes from the workers who are making this happen.

" 'This Construction A-Noise Me,' Residents Say" (2:00)
By James de Mellow & Aaron Lee
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
ZoomNYC - 12/17/09

"Going Underground" (1:44)
"Chamber 97-1, at 97th Street and 2nd Avenue, will eventually be home to a tunnel as part of the Second Avenue Subway. Carmen Perez and Yepoka Yeebo talked to the engineers and construction workers charged with moving pipes and wires, and making sure the tunnel can hold the weight of an 85,000 lb train."
By Carmen Perez and Yepoka Yeebo
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
ZoomNYC - 12/17/09

- - -

On a different, but related topic -- the MTA announced on December 17th that the 1st phase of the Number 7 Line extension has been completed.

The video below shows the 1,000-ton Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) breaking through the 34th Street station cavern wall.

(NOTE: The video and images below are NOT from the Second Avenue subway project. They are from the MTA's Number 7 Line extension project over on the west side of Manhattan.)

"7 train excavation footage" (1:53)
YouTube - Mayor Bloomberg's Channel - 12/17/09

And here are four images of the TBM, that has been working on the Number 7 Line extinsion, breaking through the rock wall.

Patrick J. Cashin/MTA

Patrick J. Cashin/MTA

Patrick J. Cashin/MTA

Patrick J. Cashin/MTA

These images were posted on Mayor Bloomberg's web site "News from the Blue Room."

You can read the full MTA press release on this link:
"MTA And Mayor Bloomberg Announce Completion Of First Phase Of Number 7 Subway Extension" - MTA 12/21/09

- - -

Here's a listing of the recent additions
to the right-hand column of The Launch Box

Monthly Project Report - Second Avenue Subway
MTA Capital Construction - 12/2009
(a 2-page summary of the project that was prepared for the Capital Construction, Planning and Real Estate Committee of the MTA Board of Directors.)

December 2009 Capital Program Oversight Report
Second Avenue Subway

McKissack + Delcan JV - 12/17/09
(a 12-page independent engineering review of the project that was prepared for the Capital Program Oversight Committee of the MTA Board of Directors.)
Note: This report is part of a very large 61 MB PDF file that is sitting on the MTA's web site. For most people it will take a little time for this to download.

"Second Avenue Subway : Go East, Young Man"
By Dan Fastenberg and Yasmine Guerda
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
ZoomNYC - 12/20/09

"Second Ave. station entrance sagas hit 96th St."
2nd Ave. Sagas - 12/22/09

"Subway Construction Blasts Business" (1:38)
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
By Dan Lieberman

And, an addition to the glossary

Happy Holidays!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Return of The Gates

btw. 85th & 86th - looking N

The orange construction fencing that is being used to protect the Second Avenue subway work site in the 80s reminds me of The Gates, which was a work of art (by Christo and Jeanne-Claude) that was on display in Central Park back in the winter of 2005.

When I took these pictures, on Sunday December 6th, there were no clouds in the sky and the winter sun to the south had just past the center line of Second Avenue. These conditions provided me with the opportunity to take some wonderful images - with really nice shadows, as you will see.

The Gates - Central Park - 2/05

btw. 85th & 86th - looking SW

85th - NE corner - looking N

It's interesting to see here how the restaurant owner (I assume) has landscaped the construction fence in an effort to improve "the view" from his establishment.

85th - SE corner - looking S

85th - near the SE corner - looking SW

btw. 83rd & 84th - looking S

btw. 83rd & 84th - looking S

83rd - NE corner - looking S

83rd - SE corner - looking S

btw. 82nd & 83rd - looking S

btw. 82nd & 83rd - looking S

btw. 82nd & 83rd - looking N

82nd - NE corner - looking N

82nd - SE corner - looking NW

A jumble of ConEd power lines.

btw. 81st & 82nd - looking N

Various utility lines lines here (and generally between 82nd and 87th Streets) are being relocated in preparation for the construction of the 86th Street station and its entrances.

btw. 72nd & 73rd - looking SW

This is the approximate location of the future 72nd Street access shaft.

Excavation of this shaft, and the one of 69th Street, is scheduled to start in 1Q2010 with controlled blasting [of the shafts] scheduled to start in 2Q2010.

The two shafts will be used during excavation of the station cavern and for muck removal.

btw. 69th & 70th - looking SW

This is the location of the future 69th Street access shaft.

- - -

72nd - looking N (facing 259 East 72nd Street)

This building will be demolished, starting in May 2010, so that the site can be used to construct entrance #2 and ancillary structure #2 for the 72nd Street station.

The ancillary building at this location will be approximately 75 feet tall - which is about 1 story higher than the existing building on this location.

69th - SE corner - looking NW

Ancillary building #1 for the 72nd Street station will be located in the site that is now occupied by the two buildings shown above and the shoe repair shop shown below.

69th - near the SW corner - looking N (facing 235 East 69th)

The plan at the moment is for the new ancillary building to occupy the entire lot, which will mean that some of the windows on the east face of the building at 233 East 69th Street will be covered over by the west face of the new ancillary building. (the red-line in the image above roughly shows the windows that will be lost.)

Needless to say, the effected apartment owners are not happy about losing any of these windows, as Tom Namako of the NY Post reported in his article "Sun block at E. Side co-op" back on September 28th.

Residents of this building turned out en masse at the CB8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force meeting on November 30th to express their concerns.

- - -

96th - looking N

The contractors at this location are laying a new 30 inch gas main in this recently excavated trench.

btw. 96th & 97th - looking NE

New sections of pipe for the gas main are shown here.

97th - looking S

97th - NE corner - looking SW

The old Century Lumber yard building now sits empty. It will be demolished within the next 3 months to make room for ancillary building #2 of the 96th Street station.

(I called the telephone number for Century Lumber earlier today. After a very long delay the phone rang and someone answered. The gentleman on the phone told me that Century Lumber has merged with Mensh Mill & Lumber, which is located in Flushing, Queens.)

- - -

86th - SW corner - looking E

The contractor closed the crosswalk between the SW and SE corners of 86th and 2nd Avenue a few weeks ago so that utility relocation work could take place near the SE corner of the intersection.

Most pedestrians ignored the posted signs (as any New Yorker would expect) and crossed anyway.

86th - NW Corner - looking SE

Another view of pedestrians crossing Second Avenue in a crosswalk that has been closed.

The CB8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force passed a resolution at their last meeting on November 30th requesting that that a person be posted at this location to control the traffic until such time that the crosswalk is re-opened.

Then a few days ago a notice was posted on the web site of the East 86th Street Merchants/Residents Association with the news that this cross walk will be re-opened during the week of December 14th.

- - -

Before I close out this posting I want to return a point that I raised in my posting of December 4th, 2009 - where I wondered how it could be that Contract 1 could actually be 57% complete (a number that the MTA reported to the community at the last CB8 SAS Task Force meeting with this slide.)

Two people wrote to me (one with a comment to the blog and one with an e-mail) to explain this issue to me in more detail.

An anonymous commenter said:
"As someone who works in construction (though not on transportation projects) I actually can believe that Contract is 57% complete.
The reason, I believe, is that the scope of work for Contract 1 is primarily labor.

Building the launch box and shafts at 69th/72nd Streets are jobs that require lots of labor and -- by comparison -- relatively little materials. Boring the tunnels, on the other hand, requires a sizable investment in equipment (the TBM) with a considerable -- but comparatively smaller -- amount of labor.

The scope of work for Contract 1 is primarily labor. Building the launch box and shafts at 69th/72nd Streets are jobs that require lots of labor and -- by comparison -- relatively little materials. Boring the tunnels, on the other hand, requires a sizable investment in equipment (the TBM) with a considerable -- but comparatively smaller -- amount of labor.

It is likely that payment for the TBM itself has already been either partially or fully remanded, because the equipment has probably already been procured and fabricated. Often, boring machines are built specifically for a new project, and it wouldn't be possible to construct a TBM without payment for the people who spend time fabricating it. Although the TBM arrives at the site in pieces, a lot of work takes place before it arrives.

Finally, crews have been working in the 90s to prepare the launch box for years now, representing a massive effort and substantial amount of labor. By comparison, the labor required to create shafts at 69th/72nd Streets is minimal. Although much of the work remaining includes what we'd believe to be the "meat" of this contract (assembling the TBM on-site and drilling the tunnels themselves, then disassembling the TBM), due to the massive amount of labor already exerted it's not hard to believe that nearly 60% of this contract work has been complete."

Ron Aryel, who gave me permission to use his name, said:
"I wanted to help you understand why the MTA said that, as of November, Contract 1 is 57% complete. Your reaction was understandable, but if you look carefully at what's going on, you'll see that it makes sense.

Contract 1 included:
1) Utility relocation at several locations

2) Conventional excavation plus drill and blast to excavate the five block area of the launch box plus access shafts at 72nd St station site;

3) Preparation of the launch box which includes laying electric power especially to power the TBMs;

4) Installation of the TBM, test and boring of tunnel to 72 St.

Of these steps, Step 1 by far requires the most crews, manual labor and time. This was especially so because of the spaghetti (of utility lines) they found underground. Step 2) conventional excavation plus drill and blast, takes far more time and person-hours of work than TBM boring.

The TBM boring gets you the most mileage of tunnel with the least time and fewest people. Once assembled, TBM boring is basically a piece of cake - you turn on the machine and let it chew its way forward. The conveyor belt takes care of the muck; the dump trucks just line up under the hopper and fill up. Yeah, you have to change cutters on the wheel every so often, but there's really not much to do compared to steps 1 and 2. And you make fast progress. It will take probably six months at the most for the TBMs to finish drilling. (South of 72nd st the tunnel will be built as part of Contract 4 of I'm not mistaken.)

The percentage of contract completion is based on how much work (how many tasks) have been completed compared to the total task list for the job. Step 1 above had more tasks than all of the the other steps combined (and likely required more people than the other steps)."

These are good and valid arguments that help to explain how it could be that they are "57% complete" with Contract 1.

By some measurement (like "labor hours worked vs. scheduled labor hours" or "actual work days vs. total work days scheduled") they are 57% complete (with Contract 1) - at the moment.

But I still believe that the public's perception will be different - since the public will assume, with the MTA saying that they are "57% complete with Contract 1" that the contractors are well along with the tunnels - which they haven't even started yet.

Case in point -- this amNY story on December 7th which reported (incorrectly), "tunneling between 63rd and 92nd streets is more than half done, according to MTA materials."

And a just-released report by McKissack+Delcan for the Capital Program Oversight Committee of the MTA Board included this text on page 5-48, "Of further concern is that this contract [SAS Contract 1] is reported over half complete with its main activity, the TBM tunneling of two bores, yet to start."

- - -

Here's a listing of the recent additions
to the right-hand column of The Launch Box

"Second Avenue Strife"
By Elizabeth Wagner
Pavement Pieces - 12/14/09
Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute - New York University

"43. Because We Keep Digging"
By Christopher Bonanos
New York - 12/13/09
(includes a fantastic picture of the work site under 2nd Avenue)

"The Subway Shaft: How Second Avenue Subway Construction Hurts Businesses in its Path"
Public Advocate for the City of New York - 12/09
(A very well written 17-page report.)

"View-Obstructing Building Takes Shape"
By Dan Rivoli
Out Town - 12/9/09

"Subway Sickness?"
Residents wonder if respiratory problems are linked to construction
By Della Hasselle
Our Town - 12/9/09

"Second Avenue Subway work has caused damage, power loss"
By Heather Haddon
amNY - 12/7/2009

"Small Businesses Seek Hope on 2nd Avenue" (2:00)
By Abigail Wendle
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Sanitary & Topographical Map of the City and Island of New York
If you click on this link and then zoom-in, you can see that much of the TBM launch box site was once marshland along with a a few streams. This might help to explain the instability of some of the older building on Second Avenue.

- - -

All of the pictures shown in were taken on December 6, 2009 unless noted otherwise. The actual posting was loaded onto the blog on Monday 12/14/09.

Friday, December 4, 2009

December 4, 2009

Here are a few notes from the Community Board 8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force meeting that was convened earlier this week, on November 30th.

At the start of the meeting the MTA announced that Contract 1 (for the TBM Launch Box, tunnels from 92nd to 63rd Streets & shafts at 69th and 72nd Streets) is now 57% complete.

They didn't explain how they came up with this percentage, but even a casual observer of this project would have to wonder how they can actually be 57% complete with this contract - when they still have to (a) finish the TBM launch box, (b) assemble the Tunnel Boring Machine [TBM] at the site, (c) bore two tunnels from 92nd to 63rd Streets, and (d) remove the TBM from the site -- all by June 2011 (the current planned completion date for Contract 1.)

The MTA also said that the first two 72nd Street station construction contracts (for building demolition, station cavern mining, and heavy civil work) will be advertised [to potential contracting parties] in December.

S3 Tunnel Constructors said during their part of the presentation that the test blasting program (at the south end of the TBM launch box) was completed successfully during October and that they have now moved to "production" blasting. They expect that the blasting at the launch box site will be completed early in the 2nd quarter of 2010.

Here are 2 pictures, from the presentation, of the work site inside the TBM launch box.

under 92nd - looking SW (my guess)
The pile of rock in this picture gives us the hint as to the photographers location -- since the bedrock that is being removed from the site is only present in the southern end of the work site.

under 94th - looking S (my guess)
If you look carefully you can see the various utility lines that have been hung under the road decking structure above.

In the 2nd quarter of 2010 they expect to start assembling the TBM at the work site and they will also setup the vertical conveyor (referred to by some as a "muck tower") between 92nd and 93rd Streets. The vertical conveyor, which will be used to lift rock from the tunnel boring operation to the surface, will be setup between 92nd and 93rd Streets and it will extend about 25-30 feet above street level.

The TBM will be delivered in 50 truck loads, with 10-15 oversize loads coming in at night.

Assuming that they start boring the first tunnel in July 2010 (my guess) it should take the TBM about 14 months to complete its work. (this assumes that the machine can progress at a rate of about 1 linear block per week, which is what we were told in a previous CB8 SAS meeting.) If you do the math be sure to keep in mind that there are two tunnels, of approximately 30 blocks [each], that need to be bored.

The full 68-page presentation can be found on this link:
Construction Update and Ancillary Facility Design (69th and 72nd Streets)
Community Board 8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force - 11/30/09

- - -

Here's a listing of the recent additions
to the right-hand column of The Launch Box:

"Implementation of the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Capital Plan"
Citizens Budget Committee - 10/09

I've added a new section now, with the latest SAS related posting from Benjamin Kabak's New York City Subway blog 2nd Ave. Sagas. Ben has been providing on-going commentary, via his blog, on the Second Avenue subway project since December 2006.

Megaprojects and the Second Ave. Subway
Second Ave. Sagas - 12/2/09

SAS Neighborhood Impact: Station Entrances
Second Ave. Sagas - 12/1/09

SAS Neighborhood Impact: Ventilation Structures
Second Ave. Sagas - 12/1/09

On building subway lines during recessions
Second Ave. Sagas - 11/13/09

Archive with all 90+ Second Ave. Sagas
postings on the Second Avenue Subway

Under News:
"Station Plans Move Forward"
Our Town - 12/3/09

"With new subway, massive eyesores"
The Real Deal - 11/30/09

"Co-op Boards Together vs. MTA"
Habitat Magazine - 11/25/09

"Now it's Second Avenue flood way"
NY Post - 10/30/09

"Bracing for 2nd Ave. Subway"
NY Post - 10/22/09

"Third dig on 2nd Avenue"
Skanska Worldwide - 2009

- - -

A footnote:

I know that I'm way overdue for a posting with a fresh set of pictures. Sorry about the delay, but many other things have been taking up my free time over the past few weeks.

I hope to have a new set of pictures up in a few days - if the weather cooperates this weekend.