on Tue Nov 23 22:58:38 2021
Gov. Hochul sees light at end of NYC’s long-abandoned Second Ave. subway tunnel during tour with MTA chief
By Clayton Guse
November 23, 2021 7:42 PM
New York is about to build the world’s most expensive subway line — a project that’s been in the works for a century. Gov. Hochul on Tuesday toured a long-abandoned tunnel beneath Second Ave. in East Harlem that Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials plan to repurpose for the second phase of the Second Ave. subway.
The tunnel will help extend the Q line from its current northern terminus at Second Ave. and E. 96th St. to E. 125th St. and Lexington Ave. with two new stations in between.
The old tunnel runs between E. 110th St. and E. 120th St., and was dug in the early 1970s. Work stopped in 1974 amid the city’s financial crisis.
Extending the Second Ave. Subway 1.6 miles to Harlem will cost an estimated $6.3 billion, say MTA officials.
That’s $3.9 billion per mile, far and away the highest cost of any subway extension project in the history of the world, according to a study by researchers at New York University’s Marron Institute.
The price does not include the cost to use debt to finance the project, which brings the total bill to $6.9 billion.
The MTA has for more than two years awaited movement by the Federal Transit Administration to approve $3.4 billion to get the project going. Hochul on Tuesday said the money would come soon thanks to the infrastructure bill signed by President Biden earlier this month.
“We think we can get started one year from now,” Hochul said. Acting MTA chairman Janno Lieber said the sky-high price tag was a “bargain.”
“It will serve, when it opens, as many people as the entire Philadelphia subway system,” said Lieber.
“Everybody likes to talk about cost, but you’ve got to look at how many people it serves,” he said. “By the standards of riders, this is an incredibly efficient project, especially compared to everything else that comes before the federal government for funding.”
MTA filings to the feds estimate the construction of the extension will take seven years to finish. If that holds true, trains won’t run beneath Second Ave. in East Harlem until at least the end of 2029.
“I’m doing it in my terms in office, so it’s going to be a lot less than that,” Hochul said. She hopes the project will be speeded up by the controversial “design-build” contracting method the MTA has since 2019 been required by state law to employ.
Under design-build, the MTA consolidates design and construction work into a single contract rather than multiple separate contracts. Its impact on speeding up projects is not yet clear.
Hochul is the ninth governor to hold office since the East Harlem tunnel project broke ground during Nelson Rockefeller’s administration.
Plans to build the Second Ave. subway date back to the 1920s, when private companies ran the city’s subway lines. But it never came to fruition.
The abandoned tunnel Hochul toured is dusty, rusty and tattered — and it’s not the only one. The MTA in 1974 also stopped work on another Second Ave. tunnel between 99th and 105th Sts. that Lieber said will also be repurposed.
Another tunnel built by the city under Canal St. in Chinatown for the Second Ave. subway was also abandoned — but changes to the line’s plan mean it’s no longer needed.
The Second Ave. subway’s construction was approved in 1967 when New York voters OK’d $2.5 billion of bonds to pay for transportation improvements.
At the time, city and state officials planned for the line to run along Manhattan’s East Side up into the Bronx. If MTA officials ever make good plans for the line’s final two phases, the line would one day stretch from 125th St. to Hanover Square in the Financial District.
The money approved in 1967 was also supposed to pay for a set of double-decker East River tunnels, one of which now carries the F line between Manhattan and Queens. The other tunnel is being used for the MTA’s East Side Access project to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into a new station beneath Grand Central Terminal, which is expected to open to the public in Dec. 2022.