Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Surveying the Work

Most of the images that follow were taken last Friday on an unusually warm spring morning. They provide a fresh look at some of the ongoing work on the project.

63rd & 3rd - NE corner

A surveyor at work.

I like this picture because it shows a project worker whose skill set is different from the workers I more regularly profile here (i.e. the guys who dig the tunnels, drive the machines and haul away the muck). It takes a lot of different people to build a new subway.

63rd & 3rd - NE corner looking S

If you look carefully, you can see the other member of this survey team. (He is the guy standing just past the crosswalk sign on the far corner holding the level rod.)

Unfortunately, there is not much I can show now in and around the Lexington Ave/63rd Street station site since almost all of the work is taking place underground.

87th Street - NW corner looking SE

Up at the 86th Street station site, the contractor is in the process of assembling the two muck houses - one between 83rd & 84th streets and the other between 86th & 87th streets.

These structures will house the machinery that will be used to haul the muck out of the station cavern that, eventually, will be mined at this location.

Courtesy of Bruce Martin
87th Street - NE corner looking S

This shot was taken from an apartment terrace with a nice view of the work site.

Iron workers in this image are in the process of assembling the steel superstructure of the muck house.

86th Street - looking N

86th Street - looking N

The workers in the middle of the image were dealing with a utility line.

Courtesy of Bruce Martin
87th Street - NE corner looking N

Just north of 87th Street, the contractor will setup a set of temporary trailers that will be used by the Sandhogs for showering and changing. The building is commonly referred to, by the Sandhogs, as the Hog House.

In this image you can see a set of twenty cement footings for the trailers.

3/15/12 11:50 a.m.
Courtesy of Bruce Martin
One of the trailers being lowered onto the new footings.

3/15/12 3:21 p.m.
Courtesy of Bruce Martin
The second level of the Hog House is lowered into place.

Courtesy of Bruce Martin

The now completed Hog House.

87th Street - NW corner looking W

This is a temporary heating and hot water boiler for an apartment building. Boilers like this are set up when it is necessary for the building owner to take the main boiler out of service for an extended period of time.

It is my understanding that this temporary boiler has been put in service so that work can be done on the boiler in the building that is located on the NW corner of 86th Street and 2nd Avenue. A part of this building (where the former Chase branch was located) will become the site of Ancillary Building No. 2 for the 86th Street station.

Most likely the boiler in this building has to moved and/or reconfigured to make room for the equipment that will be installed in support of the subway project.

btw. 83rd & 84th streets - looking E

A large exhaust fan. This fan will probably be used to provide ventilation of the cavern and tunnels below once they start excavating the station cavern.

btw. 70th & 71st streets - looking S

A view of the 72nd Street muck house with a blooming tree in the foreground.

btw. 68th & 69 streets - looking E

This image shows a concrete pumping station just south of 69th Street. Fresh concrete is delivered to this location and then it is pumped to the work site underground in the station cavern deep below Second Avenue.


A closeup of the concrete pumping operation.

near 95th Street

The jaws of TEC Baya diaphram wall excavator take a rest, waiting for their next job.

near 94th Street

Utility work near the future location of Entrance No. 2 to the 96th Street station.

63rd Street - btw. 3rd & Lex - looking E

Now on the way back to the subway -- an image of the warm morning sunlight shining through the blossoming trees.

And finally, three recent images from the MTA's Flickr Photostream. These images, from inside the 72nd Street station cavern, were taken by the MTA's staff photographer Patrick J. Cashin.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick J. Cashin

This image appears to have been taken from the north end of the cavern, looking south.

A section of the east tunnel, that was mined last year by the TBM, can be seen on the left. Eventually this section of tunnel will disappear, as the rock around it is completely removed during the excavation of the station cavern.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick J. Cashin

Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick J. Cashin

This is the three-block-long 72nd Street station cavern, as it looked about a week ago.

This interesting report was recently posted in the Federal Transit Administrations' Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room in the Frequently Requested Records section.

Project Management Oversight Contractor Monthly Report
Second Avenue Subway Phase 1
Prepared by Urban Engineers of New York for
the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
January 2012

Unfortunately, much of the report was redacted by the DOT prior to its release. Portions of text were blacked out in accordance with an exemption that exists under the Freedom of Information Act.

The exemption that was used in this case "applies to information such as trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a company on a privileged or confidential basis which, if released, would result in competitive harm to [the company]" which in this case I assume is the MTA and/or its contractors.

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

Second Ave. Dust Sagas: OSHA finds silica
By Benjamin Kabak
2nd. Ave. Sagas - 3/20/12

"Lung hazard at 2nd Ave. Subway"
By Jennifer Fermino
NY Post - 3/19/12

"An Underground Look at New York’s Second Avenue Subway "
By Zachary Stieber
The Epoch Times - 3/12/12

The MTA's Second Avenue Subway Newsletter
Issue II - March 2012:

Lexington Ave/63rd St Station Area

72nd St Station Area

86th St Station Area

96th St Station Area

Monday, March 26, 2012

Albany Agrees to Fund MTA Capital Program

Updated at 10:00 p.m. ET and 3/28/12

Bloomberg News is reporting that New York Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders in Albany have reached agreement to fully fund the MTA's five-year capital budget -- a step that all but assures the completion of Phase I of the Second Avenue Subway.

As part of the agreement, the MTA's bond cap is to be increased by $7 billion and the state will provide $770 million in new funds for the MTA's capital program.

In a prepared statement, MTA Chairman & CEO Joseph Lhota said,
"The MTA is grateful for Governor Cuomo's leadership and commitment in recognizing the critical importance of funding mass transit, and in particular fully funding our current Capital Program.

The MTA Capital Program not only provides for continued investment in our network, but also creates tens of thousands of jobs and generates economic activity across the entire state.

With this funding, the MTA will continue to enhance our riders' experience by investing in the future of our transportation network, as well as bringing our assets up to a state of good repair."

Further details can be found on this link:

"Cuomo Said to Reach $13.1 Billion Deal to Fund MTA Projects"
By Freeman Klopott
Bloomberg News - 3/26/12

"Cuomo reaches an M.T.A. deal, as Senate Republicans abandon their threat to trigger a crisis"
By Dana Rubinstein
Capital - 3/26/12

Updated 3/26/12 - 10:00 p.m. ET

A now a few details -- from the NYS Transportation and Economic Development Budget Bill (S6258/A9058) that was released this morning:

The MTA's bonding authority for capital projects, which is currently $34 billion will be increased in three steps,

- Prior to 1/1/2013 the bonding cap will be $37.211 billion
- Prior to 1/1/2014 the bonding cap will be $39.544 billion
- After 1/1/2014 the bonding cap will be $41.877 billion.

A group call the The New York Works Task Force will be created. This group will "advise on coordinating the capital plans of New York state agencies and authorities, including leveraging and accelerating funding streams and financing mechanisms to enhance infrastructure investment throughout New York state."

The New York Times report on this story can be found on this link:

"Financing for M.T.A. Projects Is Shored Up"
By Christine Haughney
The New York Times

Updated 3/28/12

In related news...

Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Skelos, and Speaker Silver Announce Agreement on 2012-2013 Budget
Press Release
Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

"Infrastructure panel highlights New York state budget talks
15-member panel would prioritize projects"

By Jon Campbell and Joseph Spector
The Ithaca Journal

What the Senate Republicans got in exchange for not defunding the M.T.A.
By Dana Rubinstein
Capital - 3/28/12

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2nd Avenue Subway: A Project At Risk

Updated on 3/16 and 3/23

The New York State Senate dealt a heavy blow to the MTA earlier this week by denying, for the current 2010-2014 Capital Program, both $770 million in additional funding and an increase in MTA's bonding authority.

More simply stated, the Senate's action has the potential to jeopardize the MTA's ability to complete the current phase of the Second Avenue Subway.

The wording in the Senate budget resolution (S.6258-C) that specifically pertains to the MTA reads as follows:
Metropolitan Transit Authority

Capital Projects (S.6253-B)
• The Senate denies the Executive’s proposal to appropriate $770 million to the MTA for capital projects.

Article VII Proposals (S.6258-B)
The Senate denies the Executive’s proposal to increase the MTA bond cap by $7 billion.

In response to these actions, MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Llohta sent the following letter to the Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Letter from MTA Chairman & CEO Joseph Llota to
New York State Senator Majority Leader Dean Skelos


In the short-term, this action may further delay the award of the 96th Street Station Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Architectural and Structural Finishes Contract, since this contract cannot be awarded without further funding.

Bids for this contract are currently scheduled to be opened in three weeks -- on April 5th.

So what's next?

The New York State Assembly (which approved both the additional funding and the increase in the debt cap in their budget resolution) and Governor Cuomo must hammer out a compromise budget -- and, in theory, by the budget deadline of April 1st.

If New York State's elected officials decide not to provide the MTA with the requested capital funding and increase in the debt ceiling, then the timeline of the project will most likely be further extended, putting at risk the current goal of providing revenue service by December 2016.

Stay tuned.

Updated 3/16/12

Senator Skelos wasted no time responding to MTA Chairman's Lhota's letter.

Letter from Senators Skelos, Fuschillo and Golden to
MTA Chairman & CEO Lhota


The letter, which was co-signed by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Charles Fuschillo and Senator Marty Golden, a member of the MTA Capital Program Review Board, makes clear their concern -- that the requested 20% bonding increase ($7 billion) would result in the MTA being authorized to bond a total of nearly $42 billion.

Expressed in the senators' words:
Allowing a staggering $42 billion bonding debt level is of great concern, especially at the same time the MTA has many unresolved issues in its financial plan.
As reported by Dana Rubenstein of Capital, transit advocates from the Empire State State Transportation Alliance will to go to Albany next Tuesday to lobby Senate Republicans on the merits of capital MTA funding request.

It remains to be seen how this impasse will, or will not, be resolved over the next few weeks.

Updated 3/23/12

Both the additional capital funding and the bonding cap increase for the MTA appear to remain in limbo in Albany, as of today.

The New York State Senate met in session this past Tuesday. Among other things, they discussed a proposed law (S2467A) that would allow a portion of the motor fuel sales tax to be used to fund the NYS highway and bridge trust fund.

During the floor debate, the issues of funding for the MTA capital program came up and here's what was said:

Senator Daniel Squadron (representing parts of King and New York counties):
Based on the change in the MTA payroll tax and the funding from this legislature to the MTA, in recent years, where has funding for the capital program for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority coming from -- where is it scheduled to be coming from?
Senator Thomas W. Libous (Deputy Majority Leader, representing the counties of Broome, Tiogo and part of Chenango):
Mr. President, through you I can tell you that a couple of years ago -- Senator Squadron when you were in power -- you did have a capital fund for the MTA but there was no parity or capital fund for roads and bridges.
And we have always -- in this house -- working together bipartisanly, come up with in the 23 years that I've been been here, a 5 year plan for both the MTA and the road and bridge program.
However in the last several years the dedicated fund continues to be shortchanged as it pertains to roads and bridges.
So at this time, to be specific to Senator Squadron, I don't believe as we roll forward in this budget that there's a capital plan moving forward for either the MTA or the road and bridge program.
That's why I think it is very important, moving forward, to have this penny continue to go into the dedicated fund so we have something for roads and bridges.
(The 90-second exchange between these two senators can be seen on this YouTube link.)

The NYS Senate Joint Budget Conference Committee met yesterday for about seven minutes and it is clear from this meeting that there is no agreement, at this time, for the MTA's capital funding request.

The budget negotiations continue.


For further reading on this topic, I suggest:

Lhota: Senate budget shows wavering state commitment to transit
By Benjamin Kabak
2nd. Ave. Sagas - 3/14/12

"State Senate GOP Not Going MTA's (Budget) Way"
By Celeste Katz
NY Daily News - 3/12/12

"NY's budget: A short course in politics, numbers"
Associated Press - 3/24/12

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

"Dig Baby, Dig -- Building a Subway Line"
By Lara Glaswand, Scott Broock and Olivia Zaleski
The Daily - 3/10/12
Video (1:50)
An underground tour of 72nd Street station cavern

360 Photo: Second Coming
By Bryan Bedder
The Daily
- 3/6/12
A 360° panoramic image of the 72nd Street station cavern.
(very cool)


Jump to previous posting:
Contract One - Nearly Done
S3 Tunnel Constructors Nears Completion of Contract 1

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Contract One - Nearly Done

S3 Tunnel Constructors Nears Completion of Contract 1

By the end of this month, S3 Tunnel Constructors (a joint venture of Skanska USA Civil, Schiavone Construction, and J.F. Shea Construction) is expected to substantially complete its work on Contract 1 of the project.

This contract, which was awarded on 3/20/2007, included construction of two tunnels under Second Avenue using a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) and other mining methods.

The contract also included the preparation work for tunneling, such as utility relocation and construction of the so-called TBM Launch Box from 92nd to 95th Streets. It also included construction of access shafts at 69th and 72nd Streets for the 72nd Street station cavern.

The photos that follow were taken on Friday, March 9th, inside the TBM Launch Box and the west tunnel.

MTA Capital Construction approved my request to shoot this set of underground images for the blog. My guide on the tour was a field engineer from Skanska.

near 92nd Street

Looking south from the stairs towards the entrances to the new tunnels.

On the right is the entrance to Tunnel No. 1 (the west tunnel). On the left is the entrance to Tunnel No. 2 (the east tunnel).


From this vantage point, you are standing on the floor of the TBM Launch Box looking south towards the tunnels.

The arch form situated on the right was, until recently, being used for concrete operations inside the tunnels. It will soon be used by another contractor to complete the concrete lining in the east tunnel.


The entrances to the tunnels stand in the distance.

Now for a moment let's take a step back in time...

Metropolitan Transportation Authority

How time flies. Here's a shot from 2010 that shows the tunnels before the TBM started its work.

The workers in this image are mining the two 40-foot starter tunnels.


Two months later -- the TBM is positioned in front on the west tunnel.

Over the next nine months, the machine mined a distance of 7,162 linear feet of the west tunnel under Second Avenue.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority

This image, from about a year ago, shows the TBM soon after it had started to mine the east tunnel. The cutterhead of the TBM is, in this shot, just a few hundred feet inside the tunnel.

On 9/22/11, the Second Avenue Subway TBM arrived at its final destination -- the north side of the lower level of the 63rd Street/Lexington Avenue station -- after mining a distance of 7,789 linear feet.


Now let's take a walk in the west tunnel to see how it looks today.

Just inside the entrance to the west tunnel - looking south

Ahead of me, my guide pauses while I work to capture the light and depth of the tunnel.

Here you can see the tunnel's new concrete lining, which is approximately one foot thick.

Two sections of the west tunnel have been waterproofed and lined with concrete thus far:

Section 1: from a point just south of 92nd Street to a point just north of 86th Street (the north end of the future 86th Street station cavern).

Section 2: from a point just south of 84th Street (the south end of the future 86th Street station cavern) to a point just north of 72nd Street (the north end of the 72nd Street station cavern).

Looking north

I then turned around to take a shot of the view in the other direction -- back into the TBM Launch Box.

Looking north

Now we are about 200 feet inside the tunnel -- the entrance appears more distant.

Looking north

Note the tubes protruding from the tunnel walls.

Tubes like these are used to inject grout into the wall to fill any gaps that exist between the rock and the concrete tunnel lining.

Just north of 86th Street - looking south

We are now coming to the end of the first section of concrete lined tunnel. The yellow sealing material ahead is used to waterproof the tunnel wall.

(The standing water in the tunnel is coming from the section of tunnel ahead of us, which has not yet been waterproofed.)


This is a view of sealing material, or membrane, that was applied to the rock before the concrete lining was applied.

Just south of 86th Street - looking north

We have now entered a section of the west tunnel that has not been waterproofed or lined with concrete.

Why not, you might ask...?

Because this section of tunnel is inside the perimeter of the future 86th Street station cavern. This section of tunnel will be exposed when the 86th Street station cavern is excavated over the next year or so.

The water here is about 5" deep. We walked at a slower pace so as to reduce the chances of tripping and falling into the water.

(Observant viewers will wonder why the water is so calm if we have just walked through it. In actuality, this shot was taken on our way out of the tunnel.)

Near 83rd Street - looking south

We stand clear of the oncoming vehicle, which I'm told is called a man carrier. This machine is used to transport workers from the TBM Launch Box to a job site deep inside the tunnel.

Approx. 73rd Street - looking south

This is the end of our tunnel tour for today. The workers ahead of us are blasting out a cavern between the east and west tunnels, just north of the 72nd Street station cavern.

Eventually, a crossover track will be installed in this new cavern, just north of the station.


Now back to the TBM Launch Box...


A view of the arch forms that were used for the concrete lining inside the west tunnel.

Near 94th Street - looking straight up

A view of the concrete road decking above.

Various utility lines (e.g. water, gas, electric, etc.) can be seen suspended underneath the road decking. Eventually these lines will be re-buried once the 96th Street station is finished.

about 93rd Street - looking north

The north end of the TBM Launch Box, near 95th Street, can be seen here in the distance.

93rd Street - looking north

On the way up the stairs to the exit, I take one last image.

The large steel struts that support the east and west walls will be removed when the station concourse is built out by the next contractor.

btw. 96th and 97th streets, on the east side of 2nd Avenue

About five years ago, this simple image was taken on Second Avenue, before the TBM launch box was excavated.

If all goes well, the first trains will be running underneath Second Avenue in a little more than about four years.

The MTA has announced the date of the next Public Workshop for the Second Avenue Subway project.

Second Avenue Subway Public Workship
Scheduled for 3/20/2012

If you wish to attend this workshop, click on the link above to register.

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

Photo Tour Of Humongous Cavern Under Second Avenue
By Jake Dobkin - 3/8/12

"Residents: Subway Work Causing Cracks in Building"
By Linda Schmidt
Fox 5 News
Video (3:26) - 3/5/12

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Recent MTA Photos and Reports

This brief posting features several images and reports that were released last week by the MTA.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Deep underneath Second Avenue inside the 72nd Street station cavern

As of last week, blasting operations in this cavern were reported to be about 70% complete.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority
72nd Street station, Entrance 2 - looking north

The Sandhogs in this image appear to be using a pneumatic machine to drill holes in the rock face. The drilled holes will most likely either be used for rock bolts around the perimeter of this entrance cavern. The rock bolts transfer weight load from the exterior of the rock mass to the confined (and much stronger) interior.

Notice the uphill slope of this cavern. One could assume that the cavern being mined here will be used for a future escalator.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority
TBM tunnel No. 2 (the east tunnel)

This image shows part of the ongoing waterproofing process in the tunnel. The tunnel must be waterproofed before the concrete lining is poured.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Inside the launch box, near 92nd Street - looking south

The arch form shown in this image is being used for tunnel concrete operations.

It was reported last week that the concrete lining in the west tunnel was 100% complete; the east tunnel lining was reported to be 65% complete.

The following three reports on the project were issued by the MTA in the past week or so.

Second Avenue Subway
Public Workshop November 2011 Follow-up Report

MTA Capital Construction
37 pages / February 2012

This extensive report includes a long listing of community feedback, positive and negative, that was provided during the Public Workshop that was help last November.

The report states that the MTA took the following major steps soon after the November public workshop:
  • A week-long suspension in blasting to overhaul the muck houses
  • Regularly meetings with community stakeholders at Construction Advisory Committee meetings for the 63rd, 72nd, 86th and 96th Street Station contract areas
  • Community tours of the 96th Street and 72nd Street construction sites
  • Providing SAS community liaison personnel with identifiable 'Environmental Inspector' or 'Community Liaison' jackets
  • Community newsletters for each station construction area, and exploring the possibility of creating a Community Information Center

Second Avenue Subway Quarterly Report - 4Q2011
MTA Capital Construction
36 pages

Capital Program Oversight Report
Second Avenue Subway
6 pages / February 2012

A footnote:
I expect to release a posting with a fresh set of images from my camera next weekend.

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

"MTA Holds Monthly Briefing With Upper East Siders On Second Avenue Construction"
Video (1:59)
By Tina Redwine
NY1 - 2/28/12

Cover Story: Straight Line

The New Yorker
Cover art by Roz Chast
An artist's view of the Second Avenue Subway.

"The Second Avenue subway penalty: An appraiser's view"
By Teri Karush Rogers
BrickUnderground - 2/27/12

"MTA Mulls Night Visits to Homes of Sleepless Second Ave. Subway Neighbors"
By Amy Zimmer - 2/21/12

"Amid a Subway Project’s Dust and Noise, No Complaints About the Rent"
By Elizabeth A. Harris
The New York Times - 2/21/12

What Future the Second Ave. Subway?
By Benjamin Kabak
2nd. Ave. Sagas - 2/16/12