Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Next Stop, 72nd Street

On Tuesday morning, inside the cavern that will someday house the new 72nd Street Station deep underneath Second Avenue, the MTA hosted two important members of Congress: U.S. Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and John Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Together, the two toured the work site along with various members of the press. The images that that follow detail the morning through the lens of my camera.

72nd Street & 2nd Avenue, SW corner - looking NE

A view of the large white structure, referred to as the Muck House, that sits above the access shaft leading to the station cavern deep below.

This is basic infrastructure, plain and simple.

Here we are looking down into the access shaft that is underneath the Muck House. The shaft is 60 28 feet in diameter; from top to bottom, it's about 90 feet tall.

Inside the shaft, you can see two orange air ducts, narrow metal conduits for the electrical supply lines, pipes for compressed air, communication cables, and the track for the mine cage (on the left). The mine cage (also known as an elevator) is used for moving workers between street level and the floor of the cavern below.

At the very bottom of the shaft, you see a rectangular box. This is the top of one of the open-top skips that is used for transporting muck to the surface.

A closer view of a skip that is being loaded.

In this image, a loaded skip is being raised to the surface by the electric gantry crane that is housed inside the Muck House.

The skip in this image is being lifted out of the shaft.

It is then going to be moved to a location inside the Muck House either to be stored (full) or to be emptied, if there is a waiting truck.

btw. 72nd & 73rd street - looking NE

The image above, from earlier this year, shows how the skips (all ten of them) are stored inside inside the Muck House.

The yellow structure in the middle is the gantry crane that is used to move the skips around. It rolls back and forth inside the structure on its own set of tracks.

A view of muck being released from an overhead skip into a waiting truck.

A view of the mine cage that transports workers -- and Tuesday's guests and press members -- from street level to the cavern floor far below.

Taken from the floor of the cavern, this photo shows the mine cage being lowered inside the shaft.

A first view of what feels like another world -- 90 feet below the surface of Second Avenue.

Looking South

In the image, you can clearly see the arch of the cavern. The ceiling of the cavern is arched to provide structural support for the rock above.

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.

It would appear that the contractor has completed mining of the pilot cut (diagram 2) and the west slash cut (diagram 3) of the cavern.

Looking North

In the distance, you can see the west tunnel that was mined by the TBM in 2010 and early 2011.

The TBM tunnel shown above is 22-feet in diameter. This gives you some perspective on just how large this cavern is.

When they mined the west tunnel, the TBM passed through solid rock at this location and continued mining to a point near 65th Street.

The east tunnel (not shown) passes through the solid rock on the right. At a later point, the contractor will blast away the floor into the east tunnel.

A side comment -- I pulled my T-Mobile phone out while I was standing at this location and to my great surprise I found that I had 2 bars. I made a quick call and wondered how in the world this was possible, 90 feet below ground.

Again looking South.

Here, Congresswoman Maloney and Congressman Mica (both wearing green hardhats) are being interviewed by some of the reporters on the scene.

The gathered guests quickly move out of the the way of a large front-end loader that is heading our way.

Note the low profile of the machine. It is clearly designed for use inside underground caverns and mines with low ceilings.

A view of what could be called a "tool depot," tucked into the side of the cavern.

A view looking south, from the area just in front of the west tunnel entrance.

And a closer view of the entrance to the west tunnel. It's a bit hard to imagine that someday there will be subway trains passing right though this hole as they enter the 72nd Avenue station.


After the underground tour, Congresswoman Maloney hosted a small press conference on the NE corner of 73rd Street & Second Avenue with Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, and Congressman Mica.

Maloney and Mica discussed the progress of the Second Avenue Subway and the long-term reauthorization of federal transportation programs.

Congressman Mica said that he will help ensure full-funding of the federal government’s share of the costs for first phase of the Second Avenue Subway.

The federal government must contribute $309 million over the next two years to fulfill its larger commitment of $1.3 billion for the subway's first phase, pursuant to a full-funding grant agreement governing the project.

To everyone's surprise, Congressman Mica also went on to say that he was hopeful that funding for Phase 2 of the project (96th Street to 125th Street) could be included in the next 6-year federal authorization bill. Of course, an authorization bill at the federal level does not automatically mean that you have money to spend.

This is the first time I have heard any politician go on the record with discussion of possible funding for Phase 2. This was all the more surprising when one considers that this wasn't just any politician; this was the (Republican) Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Another shot of the press conference.

Congressman Mica driving home his point, when he said, "This isn't a Republican or a Democrat project. This is a project to improve New York City. We have projects like this across the nation where we need additional transportation infrastructure, so we can get people working and employed now."

Two notable reports of the day's events:

"House Transportation Committee Chairman Voices Support
For Second Avenue Subway Project"

By Tina Redwine
Video (1:59) - NY1 - 11/2/11

"MTA silent but Mica, feds hint at SAS Phase 2"
By Benjamin Kabak
2nd. Ave. Sagas - 11/2/11


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

"Behind the Scenes, MTA Engineer-in-Chief Michael Horodniceanu builds a
new transit system, as long as Joe Lhota can bring in the money"

By Katherine Jose
Capital New York - 11/1/11
An insightful and detailed interview of Dr. Horodniceanu.


Anonymous said...

Dear Ben,

Did you ever think, when you started this blog in 2007, that you would have this kind of access to the 2nd Ave. subway project or a posting like this? I am a regular reader of your blog and have enjoyed it since the very beginning, thanks for keeping the journey so interesting!

Phil S.

The Launch Box said...


Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

When I started this project back in 2007 I thought it would be neat to take a few pictures of the SAS work site in the 90s and post them on the Internet for other to see. At the time I never imagined that the blog would grow to the point where it is today -- and that I would be invited to tour the site along with other members of the media.

I've always tried to be fair and objective on the blog, and I know that people have noticed this. I report on what I see and I know that more than a few people appreciate this.

We'll just have to see if I can make it to 2016.


Jim Kingdon said...

Well I certainly hope you make it to 2018! (er, 2016, er, well, you know what I mean).

I keep hitting reload on the blog, knowing that it doesn't get updated more than once every few weeks/months, but also knowing that when a new post appears, it will be worth the wait.

The Launch Box said...


No need to keep hitting reload to see if I've posted.

Just subscribe to The Launch Box feed and you'll receive an e-mail whenever there's a new posting.

To do this just click on this link:
RSS e-mail feed - The Launch Box


Anonymous said...


The inside diameter of the 69th and 72nd St shafts is approx. 30' (not 60').

I really enjoy your blog.


The Launch Box said...


Thanks for the comment.

I double-checked this, and you're right -- the shafts at 69th and 72nd streets are not 60 feet in diameter.

The original contract called for the shafts to be 30-feet in diameter, but they were reduced to a 28-foot diameter to avoid relocating a sewer main under Second Avenue.

I will correct the posting.