Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fixing up 2nd Avenue

MTA works to make good on its promise
to fix up the neighborhood on Second Avenue.

East 92nd Street, SE corner - looking N

The image above may appear to be unremarkable. However, it shows exactly what the MTA has in mind when they say they intend to "improve the pedestrian experience on Second Avenue."

In this image you can see:

- all new fencing, which is as straight as an arrow;
- newly painted storefront rolling gate doors;
- an unobstructed 7 foot 9 foot wide sidewalk; and
- freshly painted and straight crosswalk lines.

When you consider what much of this area has endured in the past three years, these are rather dramatic changes.

It was only several months ago, in this same spot, that a vagrant regularly staked out this corner under what was then a littered and unlit sidewalk shed. (I'm not exactly sure if the vagrant is still around as much or whether he has now shifted to a new area.)

92nd Street, SE corner - looking S

And a view in the other direction, showing an area of the launch box construction site that has not been yet been revamped.

btw. 92nd & 93rd streets - looking S

Another view of the incredibly straight fence that has been erected in this block.

93rd Street, SE corner - looking NW

Up on 93rd Street, they've recently painted the trim on the Sandhog's "Hog House" (their changing and shower rooms) the color blue.

94th Street, NE corner - looking W

Yet another example of newly painted and very straight crosswalk lines.


91st Street, SE corner - looking SW

Work continues in and around 91st Street. Here, the MTA contractors prepare to freeze the ground in advance of the 2nd TBM run on the east side of Second Avenue (projected for early 2011).

91st Street - looking N

A maze of insulated pipes and tubes can be seen in the image above.


97th Street, 50 feet west of the NW corner - looking S

In this area of the job site, the MTA's contractors continue their work to stabilize the north foundation of 1873 Second Avenue with a technique called Jet Grouting.

This lot is the location where Ancillary Building No. 2 for the 96th Street station will eventually be built.


When I walked by this location last Saturday, this machine was being used to remove bucket loads of what looked like a slurry material, from the foundation of the north side of the building at 1873 Second Avenue.


1815 Second Avenue (near the SW corner of 94th)
(former Rainbow Hardware location)

At this location, the MTA's contractor E.E. Cruz-Tully JV is demolishing part of the interior of this building to make way for the construction of the Entrance No. 1 for the 96th Street station.

btw. 85th & 86th Streets - looking E

The newly planted trees near the historic Heidelberg Restaurant would suggest that utility relocation work on the east side of this block is now complete. This is big news for the residents who live in this area.

84th Street - looking S

Down in the 80's, the MTA's contractor J. D'Annunzio & Sons, Inc. is continuing their work to relocate area utility lines, ducts and pipes.

83rd Street - looking N

A view of their active work zone between 83rd and 84th streets. In this image, the contractor is excavating a new trench for Empire City Subway.

82nd Street - NE corner

Someone told me that this type of engraved street marking was installed so that riders of the former IRT Second Avenue Line would know which street they were crossing. (Maybe a reader of this blog can confirm this?)


The MTA recently released (on their web site) a copy of the most recent MTA Capital Construction report to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway Project.

The report, which is linked below, covers the period July - September 2010.

MTA Capital Construction Report to the FTA - 3Q2010
Second Avenue Subway, Phase 1

Page 18 of the report.

Of particular note is this statement:
"The SAS Integrated Project Schedule (IPS) continues to forecast an SAS Revenue Service Date (RSD) of 30-Dec-2016 with 168 calendar days of schedule contingency."

When the project started back in 2007, the MTA had planned for 186 calendar days of schedule contingency in the overall plan. (Note: Fewer days available for schedule contingency reduces the likelihood that this new subway service will go into service by December 2016.)

But at some point in October, after the 3Q2010 report was published, the project's schedule contingency was reduced to 138 days.

One could wonder if the slower than expected progress of the TBM, due to the poor rock conditions under Second Avenue, will continue to erode the available schedule contingency days in the plan.

The report also showed that the projected "substantial completion" date of each of the active SAS contracts has slipped by an additional 1-2 months since the last quarterly report to the FTA.

Another notable point in the report is the significant number of accidents in and around the 86th Street utility relocation job site. To quote the report:
The OSHA recordable incidents ratio for accidents on this contract is 8.9.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics/ National Industry Average is 4.2.

The OSHA Lost Time Accidents ratio for this contract is 8.9.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics/National Industry Average is 2.2.
The other contract sites on Second Avenue appear to be safer places to work, according to the statistics quoted in the report.


It was reported last week that the tunnel boring machine approaching 76th Street.

The TBM mining operations just north of this area have been impacted by two major factors: (1) the poor quality of the rock in this area, and (2) a significant amount of gushing ground water (underground streams).


Community Board 8 issued the following letter, via e-mail, a few days ago:

The letter states that the MTA, with the help of Community Board 8, is soliciting comments regarding the materials and finishes of the planned Ancillary Facilities for the Second Avenue Subway.

Here a link to the presentation that is referenced in the letter:

And here is a link that will direct you to the page on the MTA's web site were comments can be submitted:
(select MTA Service = Planning Studies // Second Avenue Subway)

Comment can also be sent via e-mail to

Comments are due by December 15, 2010 early January, 2011.


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

Notice of Limitation on Claims Against
Proposed Public Transportation Projects
Federal Transit Administration (FTA), DOT
Federal Register Volume 75, Number 224 - 11/22/10
Pages 71181-71182
A notice announcing final environmental actions taken by the FTA for the Second Avenue Subway.

Report of the Lieutenant Governor on
New York State’s Transportation Infrastructure

As prepared by Richard Ravitch,
Lt. Governor of the State of New York

Note in particular this section of the report:
The $28 billion, five-year MTA Plan set out in October, 2009 faces a gap of at least $10 billion for its final three years. The MTA is in the middle of its largest system expansion in more than four decades, and there is now legitimate worry that the MTA will have great difficulty in finding resources sufficient to complete its current slate of mega-projects, including the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway and the Long Island Railroad’s East Side Access Project.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

MTA: Becoming Better Neighbors

Late last month, the MTA announced a plan to improve the conditions in and around its construction sites on Second Avenue.

In a nutshell, the MTA has said that their goal is to "improve the pedestrian experience" [on Second Avenue] in an effort to "be better neighbors."

A few people have asked me for further details on the MTA's plan, so I dug a little deeper (no pun intended). I was able to track down a presentation that was given by Michael Horodniceanu at the October meeting of the MTA Board of Directors NYC Transit Committee. (Dr. Horodniceanu is the President of MTA Capital Construction.)

: :

The transcription that accompanies the presentation (shown below) is based on a video recording of the October meeting of the NYC Transit Committee. A small number of minor editorial changes were introduced by me in an effort to make Dr. Horodniceanu's unscripted remarks easier to read.

I also added hyperlinks for words and abbreviations that may not be commonly known to the general public.

Please keep in mind that many of the images in the presentation are just conceptualizations. The final design, so I am told, could be different.

In addition, please note that what follows is not an official transcript of the meeting.


Dr. Horodniceanu:
One of the other things that I would like discuss -- and for this I have a short presentation -- is what we expect to do along Second Avenue, as we become better neighbors to the people that we inconvenience with our work on a daily basis.

A board member:
We will pay very close attention to this -- because that is not a fun place to live and work right now, so I'm glad we're taking these extraordinary steps -- they're certainly needed.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
One of the things that we are doing is that we are upgrading the conditions along the construction site to makes sure that certain things are happening, and we are creating a better environment for pedestrians -- we [would] like to improve the experience of the pedestrians so they can basically navigate the area [and] we are helping the businesses in the area to accommodate their customers -- as well as in this particular case we expect to use cleanliness as being a very important thing.

Construction sites normally are not known for their neatness and cleanliness, and while you have 9 to 12 months contracts, that's okay in a way, we're going to be there for the next 6 years -- so we have to make sure that we're going to be good neighbors since we're building in front of every one's living room.

A board member:
On the previous slide it mentions repairing sidewalks. Are these repairs regardless of whether MTA caused the problem or just... you're going to go through [the] whole range of streets?

Dr. Horodniceanu:
Wherever we [have] impact -- and I'll show you what things we expect to do -- we expect to have one specific block that we're doing first, and this is between 92nd and 93rd, and we're going to make that a model block and we're going to continue beyond that.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
Here's a good example of existing and planned -- if you look at the corner on the left side, there is a bulging fence... this is our site. Our contractor occupies that site and it's bulging in about a foot and half. If you look at the wall here, it is made out of a variety of fences so it's kind of a patchwork and that is not acceptable.

The idea is, what we will do here -- we will actually make sure that we are cleaning up and lining up things. When you look at the sidewalk, in this particular case, if we need to -- and that's what we're showing here -- I'm not suggesting that everyone needs that -- we may put in a wooden sidewalk just to make sure that it's kept level.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
This is another example, and you can see that number one there are -- in front of the stores -- we have a kind of steps or stoops, whatever you want to call them, and these steps actually cut in to the width of 7 feet because you have to negotiate around them. Again, the idea here is that we want to make sure that we are creating that -- take the fence, the fencing is irregular, high, low. That's going to change as well and we're going to make sure that the signage is both comprehensive and it will have a pattern that people will be able to understand.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
On the other side we have a variety of jersey barriers painted whatever the way they came from another job -- sometimes broken -- the fencing is again, a variety of fencing that you can get.

Here what we're going to do is take a page from what we did on the Fulton Transit [project] in which we're providing uniformity, and we're going to put some signage showing people that we want to encourage them to shop on Second Avenue as well as showing people what the stations are going to look like -- things that will actually showcase what we do, not showcasing a kind of a messy construction site.

This [image] is somewhat idealized -- someone took an artistic license to put flowers at the bottom but that is neither here nor there. We will make it uniform.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
One of the things is that at the edge of every block we're going to put in uniform signage -- telling people what they should expect to find on that block. Which businesses... so people will be able to understand what we are doing.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
A night, it's kind of pretty dark... and there are a variety of reasons, and some of it is lack of light. Forget about the type of lighting that is being shown here.

A board member:
[inaudible comment]

Dr. Horodniceanu:
Well, it is particularly tough because in many locations we have not only the fencing, we have the shed above it -- by the time you do that you create a dark tunnel, totally uninviting for anyone to be there, we expect to change that.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
We specialize in crooked lines, sometimes. We're going to make sure that they're straight -- as well we're going to make sure the pavement is right. Some of the pavement we just put patches and we expect the people to do well with that.

I'm out there now actually on a weekly basis talking to people, and I visited with an assisted living facility that we have actually cut back the sidewalk to 7 feet, and in the process of doing that -- because of the slope and how the sidewalks work -- we created a curb reveal that is like 6 inches for people who are supposed to step down and get in to a cab.

So these are the things that we are looking at, and I'm looking at the ADA and the corners to make sure that people can get down it.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
So the bottom line is, we are creating a good neighbor standard that we expect to keep throughout the construction zone.

We are going to replace the warped fencing -- paint barriers and ugly sidewalk surfaces -- [provide] way finding signage, and we're going to do the crosswalks that have to be repainted, safe sidelines for pedestrians. I have pictures when people come to the edge and they have to -- kind of like in the subway -- they have to look and see if there are any trucks coming.

And with full access to businesses and residences -- and part of it is to make sure that the contractor complies with our specs as well as the ADA compliance with sidewalk slopes and heights.

A board member:
Michael, how much budget have you allocated for all of this?

Dr. Horodniceanu:
The budget for it is -- at this point I don't expect to expend additional money. I expect to make sure that the contractors are doing what they're supposed to be doing and if there is any expenditures, they're going to be minimal.

A board member:
And can you give everyone assurances that the fly problem that people were talking about -- because contractors were not cleaning up themselves at the end of the day -- that that is going to get resolved. It was like the Plagues of Joab -- we had rats and then flies [inaudible]

Dr. Horodniceanu:
I actually happened to be there the day after when something was said about flies and I was walking and I couldn't find the flies -- but I'm serious, I mean, you know, it seems like... the flies, the locust next, I don't know. We'll make sure that the place is clean.

We cannot make sure that the tenants themselves do not deposit trash in an unsightly manner, because that has happened as well... I'm not going to go there... we're going to make sure that from our perspective the contractor is going to clean up after themselves.

I quite frankly doubt that we created the flies because we primarily take out muck -- we don't do much more than that at this point. We're there so therefore we're going to make sure that things work well.

Right now we've put together a task force to do this job -- we're involving the merchants as well, various people in the various departments at MTA -- there's more to come... this is just the beginning.



The video recording of Dr. Horodniceanu's remarks can be found on this link:
MTA New York City Transit Committee Meeting
Metropolitan Transportation Authority - 10/25/10
start: 44:45 / end: 54:35

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Drilling on 2nd Avenue

When I walked by the work site this past Saturday, SSK Constructors (which is a joint venture of Schiavone Construction, J.F. Shea Construction, and Kiewit Infrastructure Corp) and its subcontractor were hard at work drilling out core samples of the rock under Second Avenue.

The core samples are being taken in anticipation of the start of mining operations for the 72nd Street station cavern.

69th Street
A mobile drilling rig (the blue machine) is shown in this image.

69th Street - looking N
The liquid (which is called a flushing medium) in the pan is used to cool the drilling bit, lubricate the core, remove the loose bits of rock, and help stabilize the hole. It is some combination of water, soluble oil and/or drilling mud.

A closeup view of the shaft (called a core drill string) which is seen turning at a high rate of speed in this image.

70rd Street - looking S
A second drilling rig in this work zone can be seen in the center of the image.

Note the sound level meter that has been mounted on the wooden pole on the left in this image. Its interesting to see that permanent sound level meters have been setup by the MTA's contractor at this particular work site. Permanent sound level meters allow the contractor to measure and record the sound level over a long period of time.

btw. 72nd & 73rd streets - looking NW
A third drilling rig is shown in this image, working just south of 73rd Street.

The wooden boxes shown on the left in this shot (below the taxi) are used to transport the core samples from the job site.

84th Street - looking S (west side of 2nd Avenue shown)
A view of the work site at this location. Workers here are in the process of replacing a 48" sewer main.

87th Street - looking S
Work at this location on Second Avenue is taking place in the center of the street now. Traffic lanes can be seen on the right and the left of the active work zone.

91st Street - looking N
A view of the freeze pipes that have been installed just north of 91st Street. Each of these pipes will soon be connected the so called freeze plant that has been setup on 92nd Street.

A closer view of the top of one of the freeze pipes.

93rd Street - looking S
This hand drawn sign was apparently installed in the past week or so.

btw. 94th & 95th Streets - looking S
The MTA's contractor S3 Tunnel Constructors has recently started to paint their work site structures blue, as can be seen in this image.

I have to assume that this is part of the MTA's announced plan to "improve the pedestrian experience" on Second Avenue.

btw. 94th & 95th Streets
Late afternoon shadows cast across a small section of the work site.


The MTA opened the bids for the
63rd Street Station Rehabilitation contract
on 11/4/10. (this is Contract C-26006).

The low bid, of $176,450,000, was submitted by Judlau Contracting Inc., of College Point, NY.

Here's a copy of the bid results that were posted on the MTA's web site:

Bid Number: C-26006
Bid Open Date: 11/4/2010

Vendor Name / Bid Amount
Bid Total Count: 6


In other procurement news, the MTA has now advertised the 86th Street Station Cavern Mining and Heavy Civil Structure contract (as Solicitation C-26008) using an Invitation for bid (IFB) process. This bid is currently scheduled to be opened on 12/21/10

The IFB Notice for Solicitation C-26008 says:
This Contract includes the 86th Street Station cavern and mine shafts and adits for the entrances, elevator shaft,electrical shafts, ancillaries, cross passages, underpinning of existing structures and cut and cover excavation;

the work will be performed after a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) tunnel (constructed under Contract C-26002) has been bored through the station;

perform building demolition work at 83rd and at 86th Streets in advance of work on the construction of entrances and ancillaries;

underpin existing buildings adjacent to the ancillaries and Entrance 1;

mine the 86th St. Station cavern, and mine shafts and adits for the entrances, ancillaries, and cross passages;

install temporary rock support systems as work proceeds;

install the permanent structural liner in the cavern, entrances, and ancillaries;

the permanent structural work includes construction of the station invert slab, exterior walls, and roof arch in the cavern;

supply permanent plumbing, electrical, architectural precast concrete elements and architectural embedments and incorporate these into the cast concrete;

construct the structural shell exteriors of Ancillary 1 and Entrance 1 at 83rd St. and Ancillary 2 and Entrance 2 at 86th Street;

the permanent structure from station invert level to top of ground level; supply and install temporary mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems including ventilation, drainage and lighting as necessary to conduct the Work and restore the surface of Second Avenue and cross streets which also includes the restoration of roads, sidewalks, and soft and hard landscaping.


The New York State Senate Standing Committees On Corporations, Authorities and Commissions has announced, with this Notice of Public Hearing, that they will meet in New York City on November 30th at 1 p.m. to review the Second Avenue Subway project.


Last Reported Location of the TBM
btw. 77th and 78th streets
as of Friday, October 29th

TBM Run No. 1 (west tunnel)
92nd Street to 65th Street
7,200 linear feet
40 foot starter tunnel
3,737 feet mined w/TBM to date
3,423 feet to run

October 2010 TBM Mining Data:
Distance mined: 757 linear feet
TBM mining days: 21
Avg. distance per day: 36 feet

I've been told that the TBM production was below the planned 50-feet-per-day goal due to poor geological conditions along this section. The poor rock conditions require the contractor to setup steel rings in the tunnel as the TBM progresses forward.


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

"2nd Ave. Subway Affecting Old Buildings" (5:15)
Reported by Ernie Anastos
Fox 5 News - 10/16/10
Includes a lengthy debate between Benjamin Kabak, of the 2nd Ave. Sagas subway blog, and Marcelo Ronchini, the owner of Nina's Argentinian Pizzeria.

"2nd Avenue Subway Explained to First Graders"
By Michael Grynbaum
The New York Times - 10/31/10

"The Second Avenue Subway - It's a Man Thing"
By Kathleeenwng
Letter from New York - 10/21/10

"State Senate to Hold Subway Hearing"
By Dan Rivoli
Our Town - 11/11/10


The time-lapse video embedded below documents a 3 1/2 days light rail construction project -- in 12 minutes and 50 seconds.

The video obviously has nothing to do with the Second Avenue subway project. I posted it here because I thought that it was neat way to show just how much work goes into a complex construction project.

"Church and 30th St. San Francisco MUNI Construction"
By Ken Murphy / via Vimeo