Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Look Inside the Caverns Under Second Avenue

In Manhattan, where rush hour traffic resembles a parking lot, only one subway runs the length of the East Side. Every weekday, 1.3 million passengers — more than are carried in 24 hours by the transit systems of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco combined — cram onto the Lexington Avenue line. Amid the chaos above and below, 475 laborers have dug 25 million cubic feet of rock and 10 million cubic feet of soil — roughly an Empire State Building by volume — out from under two miles of the Upper East Side. 

In December 2016, that tunnel will make its debut as a portion of the Second Avenue subway — the great failed track New York City has been postponing, restarting, and debating, financing, definancing and otherwise meaning to get in the ground since 1929.

This winter, between 69th Street and 96th Street on Second Avenue, cages descended every eight hours, five days a week, lowering roughly 50 men in neon vests and hard hats into deep holes filled with, fluorescent bulbs and yellow ventilation tubes.

Up above, men with tripods surveyed; men with blowtorches welded; men guiding hoses poured concrete, while cools winds filled the voids below with the aroma of explosives.

The hurry actually began more than 80 years ago, when city leaders first proposed constructing a new subway parallel to the Lexington line to serve the developing East Side. It would run from 125th Street south to Houston and cost $86 million.

Then came the Great Depression. And then, World War II.

In the early 1970s, short sections of the Second Avenue tunnel were burrowed at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, between 99th Street and 105th and between 110th and 120th, before the city’s looming bankruptcy in 1975 halted all digging.

The dream of a Second Avenue subway lay dormant until April 12, 2007, when contractors again broke ground — to extend the Q line from 63rd and Lexington over to Second Avenue and up to 96th Street. That alone costs $4.5 billion. Eventually they will lengthen the Q to 125th and dig a new line, the T, from the Financial District straight up Second Avenue to 125th Street.

At least that’s the plan.

Related Articles:

[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Feb 3, 2013]
[see ElectricWeb | Blogger, Apr 16, 2012