10 facts about the Second Avenue Subway

second avenue subway 3
The Second Avenue Subway’s 86th Street caverns last month.
Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Patrick Cashin

Decades ago, the Great Depression scuttled the first plans for a new subway line on Manhattan’s East Side.

Today, the first portion of the Second Avenue Subway is about two-thirds complete.

Metro took a tour in a portion of the line’s tunnel on Thursday with Michael Horodniceanu, president of Metropolitan Transportation Authority Capital Construction. He showed off progress on the project’s first phase and shared some facts about the new line.

Here are 10 things we learned about the Second Avenue Subway:

1. The first phase of the project includes three new stations, plus a connection at Lexington Avenue/63rd Street.

second avenue subway
Phase One of the Second Avenue Subway project includes three new stations.
Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in December 2016, and will serve some 200,000 riders daily. When the whole project is complete, the line will stretch 8.5 miles along the East Side, from 125th Street to Hanover Square in Manhattan. Sixteen new stations will be built.

2. The MTA says the first phase will come in under budget.

About $4.45 billion was budgeted for the project. Horodniceanu said the cost of Phase One will be “well within” that budget. There’s still no completion date or cost for the entire project.

3. Q trains will service the line after the first phase is completed.

It’s still unclear if Q trains will continue to run between the 63rd Street station in Manhattan to Astoria, Queens, once they begin to serve the new Second Avenue stations, Horodniceanu said.

4. A new train — the T — will run the length of the line eventually.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The T train, the symbol of which will be teal, is expected to have transfers to the G and D trains at Grand Street and the 4, 5 and 6 trains at 125th Street. The T is also expected to have transfers to the Q from 72nd Street to 125th Street. Transfers at 55th, 42nd, 14th and Houston streets are under evaluation.

5. The new line won’t have subway grates.

Air will instead be pumped out through ventilating towers. Horodniceanu said this will benefit both women in heels and the MTA, as the grates contribute to flooding during storms like Superstorm Sandy.

6. The tunnel walls have several layers plus “nipple” protection.

second avenue subway
The tunnel walls in the Second Avenue Subway have several layers.
Credit: Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Patrick Cashin
The "nipples."
The “nipples.”

After a boring machine made the tunnel, a portion of which already existed when the project began, workers began lining the walls with several layers. The bedrock is covered with layers of shotcrete, felt, a yellow waterproofing liner and concrete mixed with plastic fibers. “Nipples” — small tubes that go through the layers — are also placed in small groups along the wall so that grout can be pumped in if water is detected.

7. The MTA increased the number of community outreach liaisons from one to four since the project started in an effort to ease tensions with nearby residents.

Regular informational meetings and public workshops are held. Members of the public can also take tours of the tunnels. Horodniceanu said those who take his tours become the line’s biggest defenders.

8. The new line is meant to ease congestion.

A crowded number 6 train pulls out of  the 51st Street Lexington Avenue station in Midtown.  Credit: Wendy Connett/flickr via Getty Images
A crowded 6 train pulls out of the 51st Street-Lexington Avenue station in Midtown.
Credit: Wendy Connett/flickr via Getty Images

Roughly 1.5 million passengers are carried on the 4/5/6 subway line every day — about a third of the entire system’s ridership, according to Horodniceanu. When the first phase is completed, the MTA predicts the Lexington Avenue line will have about 13 percent fewer riders.

9. The new tunnels are deeper than older lines.

Most of the first subway lines, built at the beginning of the last century, are roughly 30 feet deep. The new line ranges from about 100 to 130 feet deep.

10. There isn’t a rat problem in the tunnels … yet.

Horodniceanu said the construction sites haven’t had any rat problems, mostly because the vermin go where people go. “If there’s no food, rats done come out,” he said.

Check out this video of the tunnel in progress:

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders


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