Friday, May 28, 2010

A Visit from Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow, the host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, paid a visit to the launch box yesterday as part of her "Geek Week" series.

Here's her video report, which is over 11 minutes in length, on the Second Avenue subway project.

"Where subways will ride..." (11:32)
The Rachel Maddow Show / MSNBC - 5/28/10
(click on the link for a full-screen version.)

"2nd Ave Subway" set on Flickr
By Cory Gnazzo
The Rachel Maddow Show
- 17 high-resolution images of the launch box

According to the web site TVbytheNumbers the Rachel Maddow Show has an estimated nightly viewship of 1,336,000 people. (9 and 11 p.m. broadcasts combined)


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

"Plan to Allow Billboards on Upper East Side Co-Ops Near Second Avenue Subway Project is Rejected"
By Gabriela Resto-Montero - 5/26/10

Monthly Report - Second Avenue Subway
MTA Capital Construction - 5/24/10
Note: This report is part of a 160-page pdf file. It will take a little time to open.

Construction Update and 69th Street Station Entrance
Presentation to the
Community Board 8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force - 5/25/10

Request to Modify Contract C-26005
(Civil, Structural and Utility Relocation for the 96th Street Station)
Prepared by MTA Capital Construction for
MTA New York City Transit Committee Report - 5/2010
- This modification is to add additional instrumentation to monitor building movements adjacent to the excavation work site.
Note: This request is part of a 160-page pdf file. It will take a little time to open.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Inside the Launch Box: a little detail

With this posting I present... more pictures from the inside the Second Avenue subway tunnel boring machine (TBM) launch box.

With this posting I'll be looking at some of the "under reported" areas of the launch box -- like, the vertical conveyor system, the muck tower, the side walls, the area under the decking, and the work that is taking place at the north end of the work site.

Note that you can left-click on any image to view it in high-definition format.

First let's start by taking another look at the TBM, from a few different angles.

This shot was taken from inside the stairwell, looking south towards the two starter tunnels and the TBM, which is on the right.

The image appears blurry only because it was shot through the protective plastic mesh that surrounds the stairwell. (If you left-click on the image, you can clearly see the mesh.)

This high angle shot was taken from a catwalk that is about 50 feet above the floor of the launch box. (In case you were wondering... I was escorted to this area by a member of the project team.)

Courtesy of The Robbins Company

This image, from the Robbins web site, details the different parts of a Main Beam TBM. (This is the type of TBM that is being used on this project.)

If you want to see how this particular TBM works then I suggest that you have a look at this brief video: Robbins Main Beam TBM Boring Cycle.

A closer look at a section of the front of the machine.

These is one of jacks that was used to move the 480-ton machine from the east to the west side of the launch box - to put it into position to bore the west tunnel.

The machine was initially assembled on the east side of the launch box because of the need to use the heavy lift crane at street level to position various parts, like the 61-ton cutterhead. Once the machine was assembled it was very carefully and very slowly jacked across the floor, from east to west.

This is a view from the front of the machine looking towards the rear. The wall on the left is the west side of the launch box.

This is the same wall - now about 100 feet further north. The west wall of the launch box (shown here on the left) is about 60 feet high.

This is a view (looking north) down the inside of the trailing gear of the TBM.

Crushed rock, or muck, that is produced by the tunneling operation will be brought back to this section of the TBM using a horizontal conveyor and deposited into small rail cars (called muck cars). The muck cars will then transport the crushed rock back to the launch box.

This is full view of the trailing gear of the TBM.


Now let's have a look at how the crushed rock that is produced by the TBM is removed from the work site.

Crushed rock will be transported from the TBM trailer gear back to the launch box using what are called muck cars. These cars will be moved through the tunnel on a set of tracks that will be laid behind the TBM.

Once back at the launch box, the crushed rock will then be dumped onto a conveyor system that will deposit the crushed rock into the hopper shown below.

Crushed rock from the tunneling operation flows into the hopper, in the direction shown by the larger arrow, and then the rock is transported to the surface on a vertical conveyor belt.

Once it reaches the surface it is immediately loaded into waiting dump trucks.

While the TBM can be in operation at all hours of the day, the vertical conveyor will only operate during the permitted hours of street level work - which are 7 a.m. - 10 p.m. M-F, and 10:00 a.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday.

During other times the rock brought out of the tunnels will be stored in the launch box until it can be taken to the surface.

Now some not so good news.

I did the math. It looks to me like it will take approximately 8,000 10,100 14,600 dump truck loads, over the next year or so, to take away all of the crushed rock that is produced by the TBM as it bores both tunnels. (If you're interested, you can check my math at the end of this posting.)


Now let's take a look a look at the launch box itself.

A few basic stats:
Its size is 56' (W) x 63' (H) x 815' (L).
(i.e. it's about 3 city-blocks long.)

The box extends from a point just south of East 92nd Street all the way to a point just south of East 95th Street.

I must admit that I was totally overwhelmed and awed by the size of the launch box once I was standing on the floor of it - 7 stories below Second Avenue.


The MTA said in a press release that 117,000 cubic yards (3.159 million cubic feet) of material (rock and soil) was removed during its construction. This is the amount of material that would fill over 5,000 dump trucks.

In these images you can have a close look at the utilities (gas, water, electric, telephone, cable, etc.) that have been suspended now from the ceiling of the launch box.

Note that the large horizontal beams (e.g. the beam marked with the digits "31" above) are not utility lines. These are the cross braces between the east and west walls of the launch box.


Now let's take a walk to the north end of the launch box, where they are still removing virgin soil from the site.

This is a view from a point that I would guess is under East 94th Street, looking north. Workers in the distance are moving soil into piles, so that it can be lifted using a clam shell bucket to the surface.

The red clam shell bucket that is shown in these two images is attached to a crane that is located on Second Avenue between East 94th and 95th streets.

If you look carefully you can see a video camera that has been mounted on the left-hand side of this glory hole. The camera allows the operator of the crane to see what is going on down in the hole from the cab of the crane.


And this last set of images is a collection of miscellaneous shots that I thought were also noteworthy.

This is a view looking south from a point under East 94th Street. The front of the TBM can be seen off in the distance.

Note the reflection in the standing water.

In this image you can see the sparks that were produced by a worker who was doing some welding while we were in the hole.

This is a close-up view of a section of Manhattan bedrock. The pipes shown are part of the de-watering system. (This is the system that continuously removes the ground water from the site during construction.)

This is an image of the glory hole that is located near East 92nd Street.

Look closely at this image. In it, you can see the demarcation line between the point where the bedrock ends and the secant walls begin.

And this, the last image in this set, is a reflection of the glory hole at east 92nd Street in a pool of standing water on the floor

If you would like to look at more images from inside the launch box, then I suggest that you have a look at this link:
Inside the Second Ave. Subway Launch Box
Where you can find 90 hi-resolution images that were taken by Benjamin Kabak of 2nd Ave. Sagas.


And finally -- here's the math that was used to figure out the approximate number of truck loads that will be required to take away the rock from the two tunnels:

Volume = Length x PI (3.14159) x Radius x Radius

TBM Run No. 1 (West Tunnel)
92nd Street to 74th Street [Note 1]
5,006 linear feet x 3.14159 x 11' x 11' ≈ 1.903 million cubic feet of rock

TBM Run No. 2 (East Tunnel)
92nd Street to 63rd Street
7,830 linear feet x 3.14159 x 11' x 11' ≈ 2.976 million cubic feet of rock

Total Amount of Rock, before excavation:
4.879 million cubic feet x 0.037 ≈ 180,500 cubic yards

Estimated Number of Truck Loads
(based on the weight of the rock)
4.879 million cubic feet (volume before excavation)
x 150 pounds per cubic foot / 2,000
365,900 tons of rock
≈ 14,600 dump truck loads(assuming 25 tons of rock per truck load)

14,600 truck loads / (12,836 linear feet / 50 feet per day [TBM mining] / 7 days per week [TBM mining] * 6 days per week truck loading [M-Sa] )
≈ 60 - 70 truck loads per day (M-Sa)

These calculations have been updated twice since they were first posted, based on the input that I've received from various readers of this blog.

Note 1:
The east tunnel will be extended from 74th Street to the existing stub tunnel at 63rd Street as part of Contract 4A.


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

Tunneling Begins Under Second Avenue
MTA Press Release - 5/14/10

"Massive Machine Carves Out 2nd Ave. Subway Line" (2:20)
By Matthew Rivera
The Wall Street Journal - 5/14/10

"Drill Baby Drill at Future 2nd Avenue Tunnel" (1:44)
New York Post via YouTube - 5/14/10

"MTA Launches Second Avenue Subway Boring Machine" (2:13)
By Rebecca Spitz
NY1 - 5/14/10

"Second Avenue Subway Excavation Begins:
Tunnel Boring Machine Digs Phase 1" (2:31)
By Tai Hernandez
Fox 5 News - 5/14/10

"Second Ave. Subway Construction Starts Again" (1:37)
By Adam Siff
WNBC-TV News 4 New York - 5/14/10

Friday, May 14, 2010

Inside the Launch Box: The Big Picture

This morning the MTA invited members of the press to join MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder as he officially started the Second Avenue subway tunnel boring machine (TBM).

I was part of the invited press group and I'm happy to present here a set of images from today's event.

Note that you can left-click on any image to view it in high-definition format.


Members of the press were instructed to assemble at East 92nd Street and 2nd Avenue at 9 a.m. - sharp. We were ushered into a temporary office that had been setup, where we were each issued a hard hat, an orange safety vest, a pair of gloves and a set of safety glasses. (We had to provide our own set of work boots.)

We were given a safety briefing and then instructed to proceed to the stairway entrance that would take us seven stories down to the floor of the launch box.

This shot was taken from the top of the stairway, some 60 feet above the floor below. What you see here is the front section of the now assembled TBM.

The holes that are shown, which are only about 50 feet deep, are the east and west starter tunnels. These two tunnels were blasted out of the bedrock over the winter.

The TBM will bore the west tunnel from 92nd Street to 63rd Street, then it will be backed out of the tunnel, back to the launch box. Then the TBM will bore the east tunnel, again from 92nd down to 63rd.

In this shot you see the trailing equipment (on the left), which includes the conveyor system that will transport the rock and other material (commonly referred to as muck) back to the launch box.

All of the rock that is removed by the TBM will be brought back to the launch box and then it will be transported to the surface using the vertical conveyor system that is being erected near the SE corner of East 93rd Street and 2nd Avenue.

"Inside the TBM Launch Box - a 360 degree view" (1:11)
The Launch Box via YouTube - 5/14/10

This shot was taken from inside the west starter tunnel - and you are looking at the face of the TBM's cutterhead.

A close-up view of the cutterhead - with the disk cutters clearly shown.

A close-up image of a steel disk cutter.

For this shot I was standing right in front of the cutterhead. The glory hole shown here is located near the SE corner of East 92nd Street and Second Avenue. The building that is visible through the hole is 1762 Second Avenue.

Here you can see members of the press interviewing various members of the MTA Capital Construction project team.

Here a photographer is shown taking a picture of the TBM cutterhead.

And here Tai Hernandez of Fox 5 News prepares to record a piece for broadcast later today.

You can watch Tai Hernandez's report here:"Second Avenue Subway Excavation Begins:
Tunnel Boring Machine Digs Phase 1" (2:31)
Fox 5 News - 5/14/10

More photographers at work. We actually had about 90 minutes to take pictures before the official ceremony started.

A few of the senior members of the project team have assembled here for a group photo.

Michael Horodniceanu, the President of MTA Capital Construction, is shown here (with his arm extended) and below answering questions for members of the press.

And here Benjamin Kabak, from the blog 2nd. Ave. Sagas, is interviewed by Andrew Siff of WNBC-TV News 4 New York.

You can watch Andrew Siff's report on this link:
"Second Ave. Subway Construction Starts Again" (1:37)
WNBC-TV News 4 New York - 5/14/10

Now we're just waiting for the dignitaries to arrive.

At about 10:30 a.m. the sky opened up and it started to pour, as you can see in this shot.

Here MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder is on the platform preparing to give a short speech and to officially start the TBM.

"The TBM Comes to Life" (0:13)The Launch Box via YouTube - 5/14/10

For the official ceremony, the TBM was set up so that the cutterhead rotated at a very slow speed. When the machine starts boring through rock the cutterhead will of course be rotating a bit faster, a rate of speed between 5 and 10 revolutions per minute.

After the ceremony Jay Walder took time to pose for a few official pictures.

And an operator of the TBM (this is the worker who threw the switch to start the machine) poses for a picture too.

This shot was taken from the stairway on the way out.

Finally this is the door that we passed through to leave to launch box to rejoin the masses at street level.


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

Down the rabbit hole, a tunnel boring machine comes alive
By Benjamin Kabak
2nd. Ave. Sagas - 5/14/10
Check out Ben's commentary and photos of today's event inside the launch box.

Second Avenue Subway TBM Launch Ceremony (2:11)
MTA via YouTube - 5/14/10


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Meet a Sandhog

The following report from the work site was prepared by Paula Rogovin's 1st Grade class at The Manhattan New School (P.S. 290).

Her class has been studying the construction of the Second Avenue subway.

Courtesy of D'Laine Mindreau

Most Friday mornings our first grade class from The Manhattan New School (P.S. 290) does observations at the 2nd Avenue Subway construction site.

We love to learn from the workers. We love the gigantic cranes and the excavators, and especially the tunnel boring machine.

On Friday April 30th, we saw a construction worker with a hardhat with the word “Sandhog” handwritten on it. We wondered what that meant, so we asked him. We were so lucky, because we got to interview a real “sandhog” – Pat Barr.
He was standing at the launch box where workers were lowering the motors for the TBM.
Pat had a huge smile on his face when he said that 4 generations from his family - his grandfather, his father, himself, and his 27 year old son - were “sandhogs.” He loves his work digging tunnels.
Did you know that only tunnel workers in New York City and Boston call themselves "sandhogs?” That’s what Pat said.
Pat is the worker on the left in the photo above.

This is the mural that we made of Pat. We hope that we can give it to him when we visit the launch box on Friday.

And this is our class !

Friday, May 7, 2010

CB8 Speaks

Want to know more about the Second Avenue subway project?

Here's a recent half-hour cable TV interview with Barry Schneider, the co-chair of the Community Board 8 Manhattan Second Avenue Subway Task Force.

CB8M Speaks: Second Ave. Subway Task Force (27:40)
Host: David Rosenstein
Guest: M. Barry Schneider, Co-chair of Second Ave. Subway Task Force - April 2010
Originally aired on MNN (Manhattan Neighborhood Network)
on Sunday, May 2nd at 8:30 p.m.

For those interested, the next meeting of the CB8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force will be on Tuesday, May 25th at 6:30 p.m. at the New York Blood Center, which is located at 310 East 67th Street (btw. 1st & 2nd).

The agenda for the meeting includes the following items:
1. Presentation of subway entrance at 301 East 69th Street

2. A discussion of a request to permit outdoor advertising within 100’ feet of Second Avenue, along the subway alignment, to mitigate the economic impact from the Second Avenue Subway during the construction project only.

3. Construction Update

4. Question & Answer period

5. Old Business

6. New Business

At the moment I'm not sure who has initiated the request to permit outdoor advertising along the Second Avenue subway route (agenda item 2).

I asked someone from the SABA (the Second Avenue Business Association) and they told me that this request has not been initiated by their organization.


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

"Tenants of Upper East Side Building Prepare for MTA Second Avenue Subway Take Over"
By Gabriela Resto-Montero 4/27/10


A Footnote:

Last week I redirected the RSS Feed for The Launch Box to Google's FeedBurner platform.

Doing this allows me to better manage the RSS feed from the blog. It also allows you now to receive blog updates via e-mail. (Note that if there is an update it will be delivered once a day, between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m ET.)

If you wish to be placed on the e-mail list for updates to the blog just click on this link: Updates by e-mail - and follow the directions.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


East 95th Street - looking S

Who would have guessed that a story about rats and the Second Avenue subway would find its way into a major newspaper last week. Well, the Wall Street Journal launched its new Metro section with just such a story last Monday.

Andrew Grossman's article "Rats Mob The Upper East Side" hit the street (and the web) on Monday morning April 26th as part of the 16-page launch of the new section.

The Journal article reported that "an army of rats" had invaded "a stretch of the Upper East Side." The primary area of interest, for the rats that is, apparently is a one-block section of East 93rd Street between 1st and 2nd avenues.

Later that day WABC-TV followed the Journal's lead with the broadcast piece, "Are rats taking over the Upper East Side?" and Fox Channel 5 put their spin on the story with, "Rat Infestation on Upper East Side?"

Not to be outdone, radio station 1010 WINS aired this piece, "Upper East Side Residents Blame 2nd Ave. Subway Work for Rat Problem."

And Ben Kabak, over at the blog 2nd Ave. Sagas, ended the day [Monday] with this posting, "UESers blame rat infestation on Second Ave. Subway."

By Tuesday April 27th the news has spread as far as Australia, with this reprint of the WSJ story in The Australian, a daily newspaper down under.

And by Thursday April 29th the Journal's rat story had become the 4th most e-mailed story (for the week) on the WSJ web site - right after "Opinion: ObamaCare Mulligan" and right before "Seven Reasons Apple Shareholders Should be Cautious."

So I decided that this story clearly had legs (sorry for the pun) and I set out to do a little of my own investigative reporting on this furry little problem.

I started out by taking a look at the NYC Department of Health's Rat Information Portal - the official site for this topic on the

This lead me to something that I never knew existed - the official New York City Rat Map.

With more than a little difficulty (be warned - the user interface is not that easy to use) I was able to produce 4 "rat maps" of the neighborhood around the Second Avenue subway TBM launch box construction zone.

Before you look at the maps be sure to study the legend. For reasons that I can't explain the color YELLOW means that the area passed inspection. YELLOW does not mean that there is a problem.

The thick BLUE line on the map was added by me using Photoshop. It shows the approximate location of the TBM launch box site.

Map Legend:
RED - Signs of Rats
TAN - Problem Conditions
YELLOW - Passed Inspection
GRAY - No Data

NYC Rat Map: 4/24/2009 - 4/23/2010
2nd Avenue subway construction - Year 3

The map above indicates that Department of Health has inspected most of the properties east of the launch box over the past year. And the map would appear to confirm that there have been problems, with rats, on East 93rd Street between 1st and 2nd avenues.

The 3 maps below show the prior year periods - going as far back as the one-year period before the construction of the Second Avenue subway started.

NYC Rat Map: 4/24/2008 - 4/23/2009
2nd Avenue subway construction - Year 2

NYC Rat Map: 4/24/2008 - 4/23/2009
2nd Avenue subway construction - Year 1

NYC Rat Map: 4/24/2006 - 4/23/2007
Before the start of construction of the Second Avenue subway

On Friday night, before a trash collection day, I took a walk over to East 93rd Street to see what was going on.

4/30/10 - 11:45 p.m.
East 93rd Street, near 1st Avenue - looking W
"A rat's eye view"

I proceeded down the the south side of East 93rd, kicking a few trash cans as I walked.

I then placed my camera down on the roadbed and took these two pictures (above and below) hoping that just maybe I would catch one the critters running across the street.

4/30/10 - 11:49 p.m.

4/30/10 - 11:51 p.m.
East 93rd Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue - looking W

I then turned around and walked back up the street - this time on the north side of the street.

It would probably be impossible for even a New York City rat to get into the corrugated steel trash container that can be seen on the left in this image.

On Sunday May 2nd I took a walk around the work site and down East 93rd Street - again in search of "all things rats."

East 92nd Street, NE corner - looking N

At this location I found a number of rat traps along the fence line of the work zone. (if you enlarge the image, by left-clicking on it, you can see 4 traps.)

East 95th - looking S

At this location I found a "rodent station" sign pointing to trap that was sitting near the work zone.

A close inspection of the trap shows (on the label) that is was last serviced on April 27th.

East 93rd Street, btw. 1st & 2nd avenue

Down on East 93rd I noticed quite a few rat traps, like this one, around many of the trash cans and cellar stairwells.

I didn't open any of the traps to see if they were baited, but a few of them (like this one) look to be quite new.

East 93rd Street, btw. 1st & 2nd avenue

And at some locations, like this one, I noticed uncovered trash cans.

East 93rd Street, btw. 1st & 2nd avenue

And at this building the owner has placed the trash cans inside a steel protective box.

So this leads us then to the question - has the construction of Second Avenue subway caused the rat problems on East 93rd Street, and possibly other areas of the Upper East Side?

First - looking back at the NYC Rat Maps -

This data appears to show:

  • That there are (or have been) rat problems on East 93rd Street in the past year;
  • that an "army of rats" has not invaded the Upper East side due to the construction in and around the TBM launch box site;
  • and in some areas near the work site (East 92nd Street between 1st and 2nd avenues in particular) the rat problems that preceded the start of the subway construction somehow went away after the construction started.

- the work site has been heavily baited with rodent traps since construction in the 90s began (this based on my observations over the past few years.) I would have to imagine that any rat that foolishly entered the work site he would have met his fate rather quickly.

I spoke with a representative for the MTA and she told me that a Department of Health inspector checked the work site about 2 weeks ago. The inspector found no evidence of rats at the work site.

Third - I've lived in this area for 5 years now. It's been about 4 years (thankfully) since I've seen a rat on 92nd Street and I've never seen a single rat around the actual construction site. Yes, I'm 100% sure they are around, since this is still New York City.

Fourth - did the blasting cause the rat problem on East 93rd Street? I doubt it. Most of the blasting over the past few months took place during the day when rats are not that active -- and the evening blasts stopped about a month ago. And anyway, why would rats collect on East 93rd Street unless they had a good reason to be there - like a plentiful supply of food and shelter.

Some have suggested that any significant problem with rats on East 93rd Street can probably be traced to the deli on the NE corner of East 92nd and Second Avenue (shown below) that has been vacant for ten months now.

1766 Second Avenue (looking through the front window)

Clearly this shop looks like an inviting spot for rats to hang out - but over the past ten months, since the shop was closed, I've never seen a single rat.

So my conclusion at this point is that the Second Avenue subway construction has probably actually reduced the over all number of rats in the area - due to the high number of regularly maintained rodent traps in and around the construction work zone.

What many on East 93rd Street have said is happening there would appear to me to be a localized problem that I assume would be resolved with a concerted effort on the part of the building owners and the New York City Department of Health.

And a comment - if the NY Post had carried this story I wouldn't have been surprise, but The Wall Street Journal? Go figure.

An Update 5/7/10I'm told that a producer for the new Animal Planet series Rats has been approaching residents on East 93rd Street with an offer to help clear out any rats that may be in the neighborhood. They only ask that their crew be allowed to follow the exterminator around as he does his work.

Here's a copy of the letter that the people from Rats (the TV show) have been handling out.

(left-click on the image for a readable version.)

Further Reading:

Preventing Rats on Your Property
A Guide for Property Owners and Tenants

City of New York - 4/08

Rodents, Insects and Other Pests,
Title 24 Department of Health, Article 151

Official Rules of the City of New York

Community Update on Rat Abatement
East 93rd Street Block Association - 5/1/10

Rats along 92nd and 93rd Streets (with pictures)
Letter from S3 Tunnel Constructors - 4/1/10

An Update - 5/15/10
Within the past week a maginot line of rat traps has been deployed along the east fence line of the work site, as shown in the image below, between East 92nd Street and 93rd Street.

I've been told that the additional traps were installed based on a recommendation from the NYC Department of Health.

East 92nd Street - NE corner - looking N

: : : : :

The following set of images were taken on the east side of Second Avenue between 91st and 92nd streets on Sunday, May 2nd.

I'm not sure what these are, but they look like they will ride on a set of narrow gauge railroad tracks. I would guess that part of the tunnel boring machine will sit on top of these trucks.

A close-up shot.

A selection of steel cables. Look closely and you can see that these cables are each about 1 inch thick.

These square-ish steel buckets are being used to lower pieces of the TBM down into launch box, through the hole near the SE corner of East 92nd Street.

I would guess that this is another piece of the TBM. Look at how thick the steel is.

: : : : :

Buried inside the MTA's Revised 2010-2014 Capital Plan (that was released on April 23rd) I found this curious chart.

Source: Proposed MTA Capital Program - April 2010 Draft - p. 78

According to this chart, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has apparently pushed back the forecast for completion of Phase I, in the revised FTA FFGA [Full-Funding Grant Agreement] for the Second Avenue subway project, to February 2018.

I was told last Friday, that the MTA's official date for completing Phase I of the project is still December 2016.

Also, the FTA is apparently now forecasting that the cost of this project will come in at $4.758 billion (which does not include the cost of financing) - a number that is at the high end of what the MTA projected the cost will be, as late as July 2009.

Source: Proposed MTA Capital Program - April 2010 Draft - p. 146

The same document also included a chart with details of the capital funding request for the Second Avenue subway (Phase I) for the period 2010-2014. This funding request is identical to to what was requested by the MTA when the 2010-2014 Capital Program was first prepared back in 2009.

The MTA's Capital Program request was approved by the MTA Board on April 28th and it will be sent to Albany, again. (And earlier version of the MTA's 2010-2014 Capital Program was sent to Albany last year but it was ultimately rejected by the Capital Program Review Board.)

: : : : :

Last week I was "interviewed" by a Paula Rogovin's first grade class at PS 290, The Manhattan New School, on 82nd Street. Her class has been learning about the Second Avenue subway.

When I was finished with the class interview I took a few pictures of the students Second Avenue subway related study material. A few examples of their work are shown below.





Courtesy of Lisa Jaffe
PS 290, The Manhattan New School

Viviana, PS 290

Misha, PS 290

Doreen, PS 290

Isaac, PS 290

Petrana, PS 290

Paula, PS 290

: : : : :

And finally, we return to the ten-day old mystery - what do the letters "ADI" on the front of the TBM cutterhead stand for.


Many people came up with ideas and suggestions over the past ten days, such as . . .

ADI S.p.A (an Italian tool company)

Austempered Ductile Iron

Advanced Drilling Instrument

Abracadabra! Dirt's Inside!

Always Digging Industriously

Absolutely-enormous Drilling Instrument

Aiming Deeper, Ignatz!

Articulated Delving Interiors

Aardvarks Devour Insects

Aren't Dutchmen Interesting?


(I've also been told that Adi is sometimes used as the short form of the French name Édouard, which in English is Edward.)

Many searched for these letters using Google, or Yahoo, or some other search engine on the Internet. Others looked through the on-line white pages at, and still others looked through the listing of U.S. Trademarks.

Late on Friday afternoon I learned, from the MTA, what these three letters stand for "Adi" - the name that has been given to the Second Avenue subway TBM.

And this name was selected because it is the name of MTA Capital Construction President Dr. Michael Horodniceanu's 2 ½ year old granddaughter, Adi.

I also learned that tradition says that a TBM must have a name before it starts tunneling. The name apparently is given as a sign of good luck.


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

"MTA Prepares To Take Properties Via Eminent Domain"
By Dan Rivoli
Our Town - 4/28/10

"Rats Mob The Upper East Side"
By Andrew Grossman
The Wall Street Journal - 4/26/10

"Rock-Munching Machine to Burrow Under Manhattan"
By Dana Chivvis
AOL News - 4/25/10

Relocation of Tenants btw. 94th and 97th
Memo from the MTA to the Finance Committee of the MTA Board - 4/26/10

Design/Construction Review Services for 301 East 69th Street

Staff Summary, MTA Capital Construction - Apr 2010