Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What's Under Wraps on Second Avenue?

It was a cool, cloudy Saturday in October when I ventured out to take pictures for this post.

This was the first Saturday I could recall when there were no workers at any of the MTA sites on Second Avenue.

Despite this disappointing lack of worker activity, I was happy to find that the autumn lighting showed off exquisitely the shapes, colors and textures found at the Second Avenue Subway construction project.

Just south of 96th Street - looking E

Here, a German-made Liebherr Crawler Crane (Model HS 855) sits idle. This particular crane is fitted with something known as a hydraulic slurry wall grab.

During work days, the machine is used to excavate the holes for the reinforced-concrete slurry walls around the northern end of the new 96th Street station.

94th Street - looking N

In the foreground, you can see a set of steel rods that has been laid out.

These rods will be used to construct cages for the slurry walls. A single cage is lowered into the excavated hole and then concrete is poured into the hole.

94th Street - looking SE

At this location, you can see an example of the blue fence wrapping material that the MTA has been installing to make their work sites on Second Avenue look a little more attractive.

One downside to the fence covering is that it makes it somewhat difficult for the police driving by to see what is happening on the sidewalk and inside the stores.

93rd Street - looking E

The muck tower at this location now sits idle. Its job is now complete.

The machine had been used, along with a set of conveyor belts under the road decking, to raise the muck that was produced by the TBM to a point where it could be loaded into waiting trucks on the street.

btw. 92nd & 91st street - looking E

Look carefully in this image and you can see a newly opened business with the the name BAR Off The Rails (a clever name).

The previous bar at 1754 Second Avenue, the Red Rock Road House, went out of business in November 2007. The location was vacant since then.

91st Street - looking S

Another example of the MTA's site beautification efforts.

The orange poles, which I've heard referred to as lollipops, are meant to provide a sense of separation between the pedestrian crosswalk and the road space allocated to automobile traffic.


A close-up shot of the fence wrapping material.

By Bruce Martin
87th Street - SE corner - looking SW

This is an aerial view of the north access shaft, now decked over, for the 86th Street station cavern mining contract.

The image was kindly provided to me by a resident of the neighborhood who happens to live above this section of the work site.

btw. 83rd & 84th streets - looking S

This area has recently been cleared of heavy construction machinery. It would appear that the contractor, J. D'Annunzio & Sons, Inc., is in the process of clearing this work site so that it can be passed off to the next contractor, Skanska / Traylor JV.

D'Annunzio's contract, which is scheduled to wrap up this month, was for excavation, utility relocation and road decking in and around the future location of the 86th Street station.

btw. 83rd & 84th streets - looking S

A closer view of area above the road decking that has recently been installed above the south access shaft.

This shaft will be used during the mining of the 86th Street station cavern.

74th Street - looking S

An example of the wayfinding signage that the MTA has set up near their construction sites on Second Avenue.


This sign, which is self explanatory, is required per New York Department of Transportation regulations.

The regulations require that an informational sign of this format be posted at the site of all construction projects lasting longer than three months

73rd Street - looking S

A view of the temporary offices that have been set up at this work site.

(left-click on the image for a closer look)

This official notice from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) makes reference to a citation that was issued for a hazardous condition found at this work site.

The notice informs the employees that there was a violation of an OSHA regulation. However, it apparently does not state exactly what that violation was.

The notice does say that the contractor was fined $3,500 for the violation.

Update - 10/24/11
OSHA cited the contractor at this location, Schiavonne Shea Kiewit JV (SSK Constructors), for two violations: (1) smoking at a work site where explosives were being used, and (2) failure to wait [15 minutes] before entering an area where explosives had been discharged. (Ref. OSHA Citation No. 315551374)

72nd Street - SE corner - looking NW

The contractor, SSK Constructors, is in the process of dismantling the now empty building at 235 East 92nd Street.

An ancillary building for the new 72nd Street station will be erected on the site. The new structure, which also will include an entrance to the station, will be about the same size as the existing structure.

72nd Street - SW corner - looking NE

A view of the temporary muck house that now sits between 72nd & 73rd Streets.


Now a few current images from underground, courtesy of the MTA.

MTA / C1 - Disassembly of the TBM

This is a recent view of the front section of the TBM.

The TBM, which completed the east tunnel on 9/22/11, has now been pulled back to the launch box at 92nd Street.

The machine will be disassembled in place and removed from the site via the glory hole that is located on the SE corner of 92nd Street & Second Avenue.

MTA / C1 - Disassembly of the TBM

This is view of the south end of the launch box - with the front section of the TBM positioned directly in front of the east tunnel, on the left.

MTA / C4B - G3S1 Cavern Excavation in progress

This is a recent view of the so-called G3S1 cavern that is being excavated just south of the 72nd Street station cavern.

At the south end of this cavern, there will be two tunnels:
- a tunnel on the right that will lead to the Lexington Ave/63rd Street station, and
- a tunnel on the left, to be mined in the future, that will continue south under Second Avenue.

A footnote:
This posting contains several images taken by the MTA and/or its contractors. The brown lines of text directly under the MTA images indicate (1) ownership of the photos and (2) the unedited captions that MTA Capital Construction applied to the images. The MTA gave me permission to reproduce the images here on this blog.


2nd Avenue Subway Blast
Video (0:28) - via YouTube - 10/15/11

This rather dramtic video apparently shows what it looked like inside the 72nd Street station cavern when a blast was set off. It is not clear who posted the video on YouTube, but it is clear that this is not an official MTA video.


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

Building Transit Today: The Second Avenue Subway
By Jake Schabas
untapped new york - 10/4/11

This interesting article includes a very nice set of recent images from underground.


Off Topic:
The Stockholm City Line

In Stockholm, the Swedish Transport Administration is building a new 6-km (3.7 mile) long commuter rail tunnel under the main part of the city, 2 new rail stations, and a 1.4 km (0.9 mile) long railway bridge.

The project, estimated to cost 16.8 Billion Swedish Kroner ($2.54 Billion) was started in 2007 and is projected to be completed in 2017.

Here are several images from the Stockholm City Line's Flickr web site.



For more information, follow these links:

Stockholm City Line's Web site
(translated from Swedish to English by Google Translate)

Stockholm City Line's YouTube Channel

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Beyond the Pilot Cut

This posting contains images of work that has taken place underground in various project locations during August and September.

All of the photographs shown below were taken by the MTA and/or its contractors. The MTA gave me permission to reproduce them on this blog.

Note: The brown lines of text directly under the image indicate, first, the source (i.e. MTA) and second, the unedited caption that MTA Capital Construction applied to the image.

MTA - 8/10/11
C4B - 72nd Street center cut south - looking S

This first image, from early August, appears to show work on the so-called pilot cut for the 72nd Street station cavern. The pilot cut, along the roof of the cavern, is the first section of the station cavern that is mined.

This work is being performed by the MTA's contractor, SSK Constructors, a joint venture of Schiavone Construction, J.F. Shea Construction, and Kiewit Infrastructure Corp.

You can see the basic keystone shape of the pilot cut, above in the mined cavern, and then also below in diagram 2.

(left-click on the image for a closer look)

The set of diagrams above summarizes the steps taken to mine an underground rock cavern like the one being built for the new 72nd Street station.

SSK started their work at the top of the cavern, while S3 Tunnel Constructions was mining the east and west tunnels below using the TBM. SSK first mined the pilot cut (diagram 2), and is now in the process of mining the two subsequent slash cuts to the right and left (diagrams 3 & 4).

Since the cavern is so wide, slash cuts are used to allow the arch to be supported safely in increments. Only when the slash cuts are complete and the arch fully supported is the cavern mined down to the cavern floor (diagrams 5 & 6).

MTA - 9/29/11
C4B - Underground looking north from the base of the 69th Street shaft

This recent image shows the pilot cut and a section of the slash cut on the left that has been mined.

MTA - 9/29/11
C4B - Station Cavern - Looking south from base of 72nd Street shaft

A recent image of the 72st Street station cavern.


MTA - 8/3/11
C4B - G3S1 Cavern 2 - looking south

This image, from early August, shows a different area: the location of the future "G3S1 Cavern 2".

This cavern is being built in support Phase 3 of the project. The cavern provides room for the future S1 tunnel (shown in red in the diagram below) to connected to the G3 tunnel (shown in blue) that is being built as part of Phase 1.

From this cavern, SSK has been mining the continuation of the west tunnel to the upper level of the north side of the Lexington Avenue/63rd Street station. (Readers may recall that the TBM only mined the west tunnel to a point just south of 65th Street. They had to stop there because the bend of the tunnel into the station was just too sharp for the TBM to mine.)

Note - Look carefully on the right in the image above and you can see one of the steel ribs that apparently was left by the Sandhogs when they finished the west TBM tunnel in early February 2011. So what you are looking at is the point where the west TBM tunnel ends and the G3S1 Cavern 2 starts.

G3/G4 Tunnels and 72nd Street Station
Second Avenue Subway
(left-click on the image for a closer look)

This diagram details the current and planned subway tunnels just to the east of the Lexington Avenue/63rd Street station.

The G3 & G4 tunnels (shown in blue and green) are being built as part of Phase 1 of the project. The tunnels designated as S1 & S2 (shown in red), for the future "T Line", will be built during Phase 3 of the project.

MTA - 8/19/11
C4B - G3S1 Cavern 2 - Drilling for blast holes

MTA - 8/3/11
C4B - North TBM escape niche looking north

This interesting shot shows a small tunnel that was mined in the event that the Sandhogs, working in TBM tunnel 2, needed to exit the east tunnel during an emergency.


MTA - 8/29/11
C3 - Demolition work existing platform

This image shows demolition work that is taking place on the upper level of the north side of the Lexington Avenue/63rd Street station, i.e. behind the existing orange wall that separates the north side and south (active) side of the station.

The work is being performed by the MTA's contractor Judlau Contracting.

MTA - 8/29/11
C3 - Demolition work existing station platform

Update - 10/11/11
The MTA told me this afternoon that a portion of the upper and lower platforms are being removed, as shown in the 2 images above, to create space for new stairways that will connect to one another.


MTA - 8/11/11
C1 - Concrete and waterproofing work in the west tunnel

Work being performed in the west TBM tunnel by the MTA's contractor, S3 Tunnel Constructors.

MTA - 8/27/11
C1 - Invert concrete work in the west tunnel

Workers in this image are pouring the permanent tunnel invert (i.e. the floor) of the tunnel concrete liner. The tunnel invert is the floor structure that will support the running track. The image also shows the forms, and the concrete pump lines.

The contractor is also in the process of installing concrete cast-in-place tunnel lining in the west tube. (not shown in this image.)

Please remember, I didn't take any of these shots. They are courtesy of the MTA.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Elected Officials Release New SAS Report Card

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney released her annual report card for the Second Avenue Subway to the media at an outdoor press conference on September 24th.

The following shot was taken at the southwest corner of 91st Street & Second Avenue, near the southern end of the TBM launch box work site.

Courtesy of Congresswoman Maloney's Office
(l.-r.) Assembly Member Micah Kellner, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Council Member Jessica Lappin, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and Assembly Member Dan Quart

The report card evaluates the MTA’s handling of the project. It outlines the significant progress that’s been made this year, and urges the MTA not to exceed its current 2016 deadline for completing the subway.

The report gives the MTA a “B” for its final grade in 2011 – the same grade that was given last year.

A full copy of the report card can be found below.
(Blank spacing lines have been inserted to make the report a little easier to read online.)



Third-Annual Second Avenue Subway Report Card
September 24, 2011

Issued by:
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
Assembly Member Micah Kellner
Assembly Member Dan Quart
Council Member Jessica Lappin
Council Member Dan Garodnick

During the last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has made substantial progress in building the Second Avenue Subway (SAS), culminating with the completion of the two tunnels for the subway tracks earlier this week.

Despite continued progress, the MTA has been less successful in addressing the concerns of the local community. The MTA is at its best in finding new and innovative ways to solve construction problems and at its worst in pro-actively taking steps to reduce impacts on residents and businesses. Nonetheless, roughly four and a half years into construction, there is starting to be light at the end of the tunnel.

There is plenty of good news to report. Construction is moving forward with measurable progress. The MTA completed the launch box at 92nd Street. The Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) was launched on May 14, 2010.

Just over 16 months later, on September 22, 2011, the TBM broke through the wall at 63rd Street to complete the second –and final- tunnel required for the project. The TBM successfully bored over two miles of subway tunnels at a depth of 70 feet below street level, completing the job 6 months ahead schedule.

Currently, the MTA is proceeding with construction at the site of all four station entrances that comprise Phase 1 and is preparing to commence building the tracks for the subway.

All of the individuals who formerly lived in the 61 residential apartments acquired by the MTA have been moved to new homes (9 were vacant at the time of acquisition). Only 2 businesses remain in buildings acquired by the MTA for SAS, and those businesses are scheduled to relocate by early 2012.

Demolition of older buildings that are located at the site of proposed station entrances and ancillary structures is currently underway. The building that formerly housed Century Lumber has already been torn down and some other buildings are expected to come down before the end of the year.

First considered a transportation project, the Second Avenue Subway is also an important jobs creator. The project is employing thousands of workers at a time when the construction industry is experiencing a sharp downturn.

As a shovel-ready project, SAS qualified for funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), receiving $78.9 million in 2010. As the economy continues to experience difficulties, SAS continues to help the beleaguered construction industry. The economic downturn has also enabled the MTA to secure contracts on better terms than it would have when the economy was stronger.

On the other hand, 2007 estimates of the time and cost of building the first phase of SAS quickly proved to be unrealistic.

As was mentioned in the Second Annual Report Card, on June 18, 2010, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the MTA’s partner on the Second Avenue Subway, issued a well-publicized letter confirming that the timetable for completion of the Second Avenue Subway had slipped considerably since the full funding grant agreement (FFGA) was signed, and that cost estimates had risen.

In recent years, the MTA has done a better job of staying within its timetable and budget. For the last two years, the MTA has consistently maintained that its target completion date of 2016 is achievable, although the FTA also continues to assert that it is more realistic to expect a 2018 completion date.

The construction of SAS has created significant problems for local residents and businesses. Emanations of dust from construction shafts and other environmental concerns have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take a closer look at the project. The EPA has required the MTA to implement a supplemental monitoring program to further evaluate air quality and to determine whether additional mitigation is necessary.

Construction continues to have a significant impact on Second Avenue businesses and residents, and they are suffering. While strategies have been developed to assist them, more needs to be done.

Furthermore, engineering concerns at certain buildings have required tenants to hire experts to ensure that the MTA will not damage the buildings’ infrastructure. This is costly for tenants and has a negative impact on apartment value in the community, as does the continued construction.

Many residents have complained about the choice of an industrial look for station entrances and ancillary buildings. Residents near 63rd Street have reportedly been able to secure some design changes to one of the buildings, and this has encouraged residents in other locations to hope that the MTA will heed their concerns as well.

Under the FFGA, the FTA committed to provide $1.3 billion in federal funds for the SAS. In addition, the MTA received more than $71 million in federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding and the $78.9 million in ARRA funding mentioned above.[1]

Finally, while the federal government has already contributed nearly all of its $1.3 billion commitment, the State has obligated only about half the amount needed.[2]

While the current MTA Chair has been committed to completing SAS, a new Chair will be coming in and it is impossible to gauge that person’s commitment to this project.

Furthermore, the state has a $10 billion gap in funding for the MTA’s capital projects, suggesting that there is reason for deep concern about the State’s ability to fund all of the capital projects, including East Side Access, the 7 Train extension and SAS.[3] Accordingly, there is concern about the State’s ability to provide the funding during this time of fiscal crisis.


Project Merit – A+
(2010: A+, Grade: A+)

All the characteristics that led the FTA to consider this project one of the best in the nation remain strong factors. The subway will relieve overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue line, which continues to be the most overcrowded subway in the nation.

Indeed, the MTA estimates that once the first phase of SAS is completed 23,500 daily riders, or 13%, will move from the Lexington Avenue line to the new subway.[4]

When SAS is completed, it is expected to carry roughly 213,000 passengers a day[5], more than any other ‘New Start’ project in the nation. New Yorkers continue to rely on mass transit to commute to work, more than any other Americans[6], and ridership continues to grow.

The Second Avenue Subway will provide much-needed capacity in a system that has not grown in more than half a century.

Economic Benefits – A+
(2010: A+, 2009: A+)

When this project was first proposed, it was viewed as an economic development project, crucial for New York City’s ability to continue to attract new businesses and keep existing ones. Today, we also recognize its significance as an effective and efficient jobs program.

All told, the Second Avenue Subway is creating 16,000 jobs, most of which are well-paid union jobs. At a time when the construction industry is in crisis, infrastructure construction such as the Second Avenue Subway provides vital jobs for thousands of construction workers.

These workers spend their hard-earned dollars in local businesses, and pay taxes locally. Economists like Mark Zandi tell us that every dollar spent on public infrastructure increases Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by an estimated $1.59.

Using that formula, the Second Avenue Subway will generate nearly $7 billion in GDP.

Communication with the Public – B+
(2010: B+, Grade: B+)

In general, the MTA has been extremely accessible to local residents and elected officials, and willing to make data available. However, there have been many complaints this year about the MTA’s failure to warn residents about blasting, failure to warn residents about utilities disruptions and failure to provide information about air-quality monitoring.

The MTA continues to meet with local community groups and to provide periodic updates through Community Board 8's Second Avenue Subway Task Force (CB8 Task Force), the newly-created Second Avenue Subway Construction Advisory Committee (SAS CAC), its website and weekly e-mail updates.

Following the next task force meeting this coming Monday, September 26th, the task force will have held 4 meetings in 2011, and could hold a fifth before the end of the year. That compares favorably with the 3 task force meetings held in 2010. Additionally, the SAS CAC has already held 3 meetings in 2011. The MTA maintains an office in the community, staffed with individuals who are tasked with addressing local concerns immediately.

The MTA has an excellent website that makes many pertinent documents publicly available. In mid-2009, the MTA began posting its quarterly reports to the FTA, which provide a wealth of information about the timing of contracts, progress toward completion, budgeting for the subway and what the MTA is doing to try to address problems.

The MTA has tried to be responsive to community concerns, but it could improve its efforts at outreach.

Completion of Tunnel Construction – A+
(2010 N/A, 2009 N/A)

Finished markedly ahead of schedule, the tunnel boring has been a significant success. The 485-ton, 450-foot-long TBM used a 22-foot diameter cutterhead to mine 7,789 linear feet, averaging approximately 60 linear feet a day.[7]

The Manhattan schist rock from 92nd Street to 63rd Street proved to be the perfect substance for a TBM. Initially, the MTA projected a March 2012 completion date.

By June 2011, the MTA had moved the projected completion date up to February 2012.[8] When the TBM broke through the wall at 63rd Street on September 22, 2011, it was a stunning six months earlier than initially projected.

(Editor's note: The MTA never projected completing TBM Run No. 2 in March 2012. The March 2012 date is the substiantial completion date for Contract 1 -- which is 20 months past the original planned completion date of July 2010.)

Construction Management – B
(2010: B-, 2009 Grade: B)

By finishing the subway tunnels in just over 16 months, six months earlier than projected, the MTA has proved that it is capable of meeting its timetable.

The MTA has taken other positive steps as well: In 2009, the MTA got the permission of the MTA board to allocate federal funding so that contracts could be bid more quickly. It has subdivided contracts into smaller chunks to allow for more competitive bidding to bring costs down.

It has created a schedule of contracts so that the public can follow its progress to make sure that contracts are being bid on time. The MTA has tried to make up for time lost as a result of structural issues with buildings adjacent to the SAS construction and unexpected problems in locating utilities in the roadbed.[9]

On the other hand, there are concerns that could slow the project as time goes by: failure to do due diligence on a contractor at 72nd street has delayed demolition of the Falk buildings; problems with environmental mitigation have sent dust clouds onto the streets near 72nd Street; and problems with engineering of an entrance at 69th Street has residents concerned about possibly experiencing damage to their heating system and other utilities.


Planning – B-
(2010: B-, 2009 B-)

The Second Avenue Subway is a complex project, and it requires a lot of coordination to bring all of the elements together. The MTA appears to have performed reasonably well at those aspects of the project involving actual construction, but less well at anticipating problems that were foreseeable.

Anyone with experience with New York City’s utility grid knows that there are few roadmaps for where utilities and water pipes have been laid, and that there are surprises. The MTA says it lost several months on the tunnel launch box and elsewhere because of problems locating and moving the utilities.[10]

Delays of this type should have been expected and built into the schedule. Instead, the MTA has had to adjust existing plans in order to try to get back to its initial timetable.

In 2011, the MTA has held many meetings with residents to discuss engineering problems uncovered by engineers hired by the residents. One building is concerned that its utilities could shut down as a result of station entrance construction. They believe that the issue could do serious damage to their building and be extremely costly.

The MTA’s engineers disagree. This issue needs to be resolved as quickly as possible to everyone’s satisfaction or it could cause serious delays. The MTA should have met with the building and its engineers earlier in the process to resolve these problems before there was a risk that construction could be delayed.

Local residents continue to express dismay about the MTA’s insistence that buildings related to the project must have an industrial appearance although the Final Environmental Impact Statement suggested clearly that the buildings could look residential.

Others have concerns about lost windows, placement of cooling towers and louvers and other design elements. These designs should have been available earlier in the process to allow more effective community input.

The MTA has reportedly shown flexibility on design and has made some changes to one building in response to community concern. Timely dialogue with residents could have led to less controversial design choices and more community acceptance.

In 2009, the MTA was criticized for failing to investigate the structural integrity of local buildings before masonry started falling, leading to delays in blasting. Some people had to be temporarily relocated while repairs were made, which affected the project’s cost, but did not impact the timetable.

The MTA learned its lesson and subsequently investigated the other buildings along the path of the subway to determine whether frail buildings required additional support.

The MTA deserves credit for taking steps to anticipate problems beyond the area of the launch box.

Mitigation of Construction Impact – C-
(2010, C-, 2009 Grade: C-)

Construction impact continues to be the most negative aspect of the project.

In 2011, environmental concerns have become paramount. Clouds of dust from the 72nd Street construction have alarmed residents. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) became involved and has initiated a supplemental monitoring program to further evaluate air quality and to determine whether any additional mitigation measures are necessary.

An independent testing company has been hired to determine the nature, extent and source of the particulates in the air near the construction site. In addition, the EPA required the MTA to move existing monitoring stations to locations that would be more likely to collect useful data.

Residents have complained about lack of warning about blasting, and about blasting and warning whistles that occur late at night. The MTA has promised to abide by a 7 pm blasting cut-off time.

Residents have also complained that workers on the night shift are not respectful of their need for quiet.

Complaints about sanitation problems continue. There are frequent concerns about the number of rats in the community because of construction, inadequate signage about street crossings or closings, poor visibility of traffic lights and other problems.

The MTA has been diligent in meeting with local businesses, and they have hired people who genuinely appear to want to work with the community to address individual concerns. These employees have earned plaudits for their responsiveness.

Further, the MTA did a good job of minimizing the number of buildings that have been condemned for the subway and as a result residents of only 61 apartments had to move.

The most serious issue addressed in 2010 was the deterioration of older buildings along the construction route. The MTA initially failed to recognize that many of the older buildings along the construction route were not being properly maintained by the owners and could not withstand vibrations related to construction.

In 2009, masonry fell from several buildings and blasting had to be halted while tenants were relocated and emergency repairs were made. The MTA applied for a waiver of federal statutory limits that allowed people to receive enough compensation to relocate to decent temporary accommodations.

Businesses have been significantly affected by the construction, losing sidewalk cafes, pedestrian traffic, and signage, experiencing narrowed sidewalks, constant construction noise, barricades and poor visibility.

Unexpected losses of utilities such as water and electricity have added to the concerns. Virtually every business has reported a significant loss in income.

The MTA created a Shop Second Avenue campaign to try to drive customers to affected businesses, and has extended it to all areas where construction is impacting businesses.

In addition, in 2011 the MTA began implementing its Model Block concept to try to make blocks within the construction zones more attractive and inviting for potential customers. Among the efforts is the installation of Urban Canvas artwork.

Unfortunately, dozens of businesses have closed along the subway’s construction zone despite these efforts.

While the MTA's efforts to meet with and address the concerns of businesses and residents are welcome, the bottom line is that construction impacts remain a heavy burden for people who live, work or own businesses in the community.

On Time RecordB-
(2010 Grade: C+, 2009 Grade: C)

While the completion date slipped significantly during the first two and a half years of construction, the MTA now reports that the project has not slipped further behind in 2011, and it has taken steps to mitigate delays in existing contracts.[11]

The MTA’s completion of the two tunnels early has caused this grade to rise since last year; however state funding issues continue to raise concerns that the project will experience further delays.

When this project went into Final Design, the MTA was projecting a completion date of 2012.

By the time the project broke ground in 2007, they projected a completion date of 2014.

In 2009, the MTA began projecting a 2016 completion date.

The FTA believes the project will not be finished until 2018, and sent a letter to Congress on June 18, 2010 expressing that view. Further delays are simply unacceptable.

Staying on BudgetC+
(2010: C, 2009: C)

When the full funding grant agreement was signed, this project was supposed to cost $3.8 billion. Today, the MTA is projecting $4.45 billion,[12] which is identical to the 2010 projection.[13]

It is not going to be easy to find the extra funds, particularly when there are so many other competing projects and the State’s fiscal crisis continues. The longer this project takes, the more it will cost.

On the positive side, the MTA is taking advantage of the dip in the economy to bring some of the costs down. It reports that the bid for 86th Street Station Cavern Mining and Heavy Civil/Structural Work (Contract C-26008) came in $100 million under budget.[14]

In 2008, the MTA scrapped plans for a three-track system to reduce costs further.[15]

The MTA has also restructured contracts and broken them into smaller pieces to attract a broader range of bidders.

Nonetheless, unless the MTA continues to meet its projections and stay within its timetable, it will be very hard to find the resources to complete this project.

Progress on Station Entrances and Ancillary Facilities – C-

While the subway tunneling has moved forward quickly, progress on the station entrances and ancillary facilities is limited. Not one single entrance or ancillary facility has been completed and most are at very preliminary stages.

(Editor's Note: I believe that most of the work on the station entrances was delayed because Contact 1 [TBM Tunnels and the launch box] took much longer than planned. The entrances can't be built until the station caverns are excavated and the station caverns can't be fully excavated until the TBM mining was completed.)

These parts of the project were always intended to be built toward the middle and end of the project, so the lack of progress is not surprising. Problems with a contractor have reportedly caused delays in demolishing the Falk buildings at 72nd Street.

Demonstrable first steps are apparent. The MTA is now excavating station caverns, relocating utilities and moving forward with construction at all four station locations.

The MTA has erected an enclosed muck conveying system at both 72nd Street and 69th Street, and has completed breakthrough into the TBM tunnel from the top heading at both the 69th and 72nd Street shaft areas.[16]

The MTA appears to be making progress at the cavern mining, asbestos abatement and utilities relocation, suggesting that there may soon be signs of greater progress.

The MTA has time to improve its grade here, however, ongoing concerns over the impact of construction and uncertainty over the MTA's ability to install entrances in existing buildings suggest that that there could be problems and delays down the road.

Progress Toward CompletionB-
(2010 Grade: C+, 2009 Grade: C+)

As of September 22, 2011 subway tunneling was finished.

A year ago Final Design was 96% complete.[17] By June 2011, Final Design was 100% complete and construction was 16.3% complete.[18] Presumably that percentage has increased over the last three months, particularly since the tunnel boring is done.

As of June 2011, the MTA had awarded 7 of 11 contracts, with an award value of $2,287 billion or 51.4% of the total budget.[19]

It had invoiced $1.281 billion or 28.8% of the total budget and 65% of the contracts that have been awarded to date.[20]

That is significant progress since June 2010 when the MTA had awarded 5 of 11 contracts, with an award value of $1.532 billion.[21]

The MTA expects to award two additional contracts in 2011, 86th St. Station – Mining and Lining (C-26008) and Systems – Tracks, Signals, Traction Power and Communications (C-26009).[22]

We have a long way to go, but we are starting to see definite progress. Nonetheless, this is the fourth time ground has been broken for the Second Avenue Subway, and tunnels have been built before.

Until construction is farther along, there will always be a valid concern that the project could be derailed.


Overall GradeB
(2010: B, 2009: B-)

The MTA has made real progress since last year, completing tunneling, relocating residents and businesses to allow construction of station entrances and ancillary facilities, starting demolition of buildings and moving forward with construction at all four tunnel entrances.

The MTA has succeeded in staying within its timetable and budget. While skepticism remains about their ability to do so over the next few years, it has been heartening to hear senior officials reiterate their commitment to this project.

The Second Avenue Subway’s economic contributions to the city cannot be understated. The Second Avenue Subway is an important job generator at a time when the construction industry has been hit hard. It will generate significant economic activity following its completion and will provide much needed capacity on an overcrowded subway system.

The MTA has an ambitious construction schedule, and it needs to put its full attention to making sure that this project is moving forward with all deliberate speed. However, without a new Chair who is committed to complete the subway and without assurance that state funding will be forthcoming, this project may never be finished.

The completion date for the project has been extended significantly over the years, but there were no further delays in 2011 or 2010 – a welcome development. Future delays would make this project more difficult and costly to complete. The MTA must take all steps necessary to ensure that it does not exceed its current project completion date.

Completion of the tunnels brings great hope that early problems are being resolved and that this project will stay within its current timetable and budget. There is a lot more work to be done, but there is also a growing sense that a Second Avenue Subway may soon be a reality.

September 24, 2011


Prior Second Avenue Subway report cards can be found on these links:

Second-Annual Second Avenue Subway Report Card
September 25, 2010

First-Annual Second Avenue Subway Report Card
September 25, 2009


Copies of the presentations that were made at the recent Community Board 8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force meeting can be found on these links:

CB8 Presentation: Project Update

CB8 Presentation on Construction Phase Air Monitoring Study


Back in July I published a piece, "Take me Back to the 1970!", about the Second Avenue subway tunnel that was built between 110th & 120th streets, back in the 1970s.

Recently I came across this link, "Second Avenue Subway, Harlem Edition", by a group called The LTV Squad, that includes a set of recent images that are apparently the same tunnel in Harlem. I've posted the link here for viewers who may be interested in seeing what this tunnel look like today.

My posting of this link here does not in any way indicate that I endorse the photographers' activities, since it would seem clear that all of the images were taken while trespassing on MTA property.


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

From Maloney, a B for the future T
By Benjamin Kabak
2nd. Ave. Sagas - 9/26/11

"Residents Voice Concerns Over Second Avenue Subway Impact On Air Quality"
By Nicole Ward
Video (1:58) - NY1 - 9/26/11

"MTA Defends 2nd Ave Subway Construction Amid Health Worries"
By Amy Zimmer - 9/27/11

"Reps. Give Second Ave. Subway a B:"
By Megan Finnegan
Our Town - 9/28/11

"I Ride the Harlem Line"
By Emily Moser
A delightfully interesting blog about Metro-North's Harlem Division line. Her blog was recently featured in this New York Times article, "Mad for Metro-North, a Rail Rider Is on a Mission."