New York's Subway System Finally Starting Major Expansion
May 2006 issue)
Infrastructure designers and contractors
around New York endured a tense wait for the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority's new capital program to take shape
last year, but the bumpy ride may have been worth it. The
MTA's subsidiaries have since unleashed dozens of projects,
including major jobs to expand the region's transit capacity.
The logjam broke after New York's state
legislature and Gov. George Pataki agreed to fund a $21.2
billion 2005-09 capital program for the MTA last year. Voter
approval of a $2.9 billion transportation bond on the ballot
last November provided an extra boost, said Mysore Nagaraja,
president of the MTA's Capital Construction Co., which oversees
large-budget efforts, including two - East Side Access and
the Second Avenue Subway - that split $900 million from the
"That was voted for overwhelmingly
- by 55 percent - and gave a mandate that the projects are
important," he said. "The confidence level for funding
from both the state and federal perspectives is up."
New York City Transit is another busy
MTA division, with more than $2 billion a year in the new
capital program for bus depot, rail yard, fan plant, station
rehabilitation, signal, track, and tunnel lighting projects
in the five boroughs, said Cosema Crawford, the agency's chief
"It's good work across all disciplines
- a lot of deep excavation work, complex logistics work,"
she added. "It's a great capital program for contractors
of all sizes."
New Work Expands System's Reach
The MTA's docket has three high-profile
projects, two to expand the city's subway system for the first
time in decades, and the third to transform commuting patterns
for thousands of suburbanites.
One is an extension of the Flushing
line, known as the 7 train, from its terminus at W. 42nd Street
and 7th Avenue. It will head west and south to the Jacob K.
Javits Center on W. 34th Street and 11th Avenue. New York
City is footing the $2 billion bill, which does not include
funds to acquire land, such as a planned staging site on W.
26th Street, Nagaraja said.
The MTA plans to award a $350 million
to $400 million contract by year's end to tunnel from 26th
Street north to W. 41st Street and 10th Avenue. A contract
to build the 34th Street station would follow next year. The
agency is also hiring a construction manager consultant this
"My goal is by 2011 to finish the
whole thing," Nagaraja said.
The 7 line will have to work around
various underground features, said David Donatelli, project
manager for New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff, the design
consultant. Those include the 8th Avenue subway; Amtrak's
West Side rail yards, access tunnels, and open tracks; infrastructure
for the Lincoln Tunnel and Port Authority Bus Terminal; the
viaduct supporting 11th Avenue; and a planned $6 billion commuter
rail tunnel under the Hudson River from New Jersey that would
end at 34th Street and 7th Avenue.
"We will have to make sure that
the other features are shored up properly," Nagaraja
said. "But we will be digging deep."
Another subway expansion has a much
larger reach - the $16 billion Second Avenue line planned
to one day stretch 8.1 mi. from 125th Street and Park Avenue
in East Harlem down to Hanover Square near Wall Street. Aimed
at easing congestion on the Lexington Avenue line on Manhattan's
East Side, the four-phase project would start next year with
construction of a leg from E. 96th Street to E. 63rd Street,
where it would link to an existing station, said David Palmer,
a principal with London-based Arup, a lead firm on the joint-venture
The job will involve a cut-and-cover
dig for a station at 96th Street and mining with TBM and other
deep excavation equipment for stations at 72nd and 86th streets,
Palmer said. Three tracks heading south into the 72nd Street
station will fan out to four on the other side, added Don
Phillips, an Arup principal.
"You have to plan for crossovers
between the tracks at both ends, which means you have to mine
larger caverns," he said.
Preliminary engineering and environmental
approvals are complete on the first $3.8 billion, 2-mi. phase,
"My hope is that next spring we'll
have the tunnel contract," he added.
The first leg would finish in late 2012
or early 2013 to serve an expected 202,000 riders, Nagaraja
said. The design effort so far has cost $400 million, and
funding for the rest of the first phase would come from $1
billion left over from the 2000-2004 capital plan, $450 million
from last November's referendum, $1.5 billion in federal money,
and future MTA funds.
The significance of adding a new line
led the MTA to ask its design team to also develop modern
systemwide station construction guidelines. The template will
also apply to the 7 line expansion.
"One of the things we tried to
do is make the space as attractive as we can - it has to function
well day and night," Phillips said. "For instance,
the platforms will be column-free spaces so that people can
see all around the train arrival area."
The project brought together DMJM Harris
and FXFowle, both based in New York, Arup, and others. They
took roost in an MTA office, drafting preliminary and conceptual
designs over three years, said Sudhir Jambhekar, a FXFowle
"It was an amazing collaborative
process," he added. "Projects of this nature are
led by serious engineering decisions, so we had to be cognizant
of that as we designed stations and streetscapes."
At some point, the teams on Second Avenue
may cross paths with crews working on another MTA project
- the $6.3 billion East Side Access program that will bring
Long Island Rail Road trains, which currently head straight
to Pennsylvania Station on Manhattan's West Side, into a new
station complex deep under Grand Central Terminal on the East
The busiest phase is approaching with
the planned award next month of a $380 million contract to
bore 1 mi. southward from the existing 63rd Street rail tunnel
- which connects to Queens under the East River - in order
to reach Grand Central in a deep dig under existing subway
lines. Nagaraja said he also expects to award a $90 million
contract next month to build rail infrastructure under Amtrak's
Sunnyside Yard rail complex in Queens.
Nagaraja said he hopes to clear up East
Side Access funding by locking in an expected federal contribution
this year. His agency has spent about $1 billion so far and
has $1.1 billion on hand in funds from the last capital plan
and the November referendum. He expects the federal government
to contribute $2 billion.
Another East Side Access contract for
a $150 million chilling and ventilation facility on E. 50th
Street in Manhattan, set for award next year, will end a bitter
fight with neighbors, who objected to the planned seven-story
height. Nagaraja said the solution to move three to four floors
underground and add a park added $50 million to the tab.
"It was frustrating," he said.
"But it's a good design that's friendly to the neighborhood."
Upgrading the Core Infrastructure
Expanding a 100-year-old transit system
may capture the imagination, but the MTA is also deep into
efforts to maintain or upgrade its bus and rail infrastructure.
That translates into scores of big projects.
A signature effort is New York City
Transit's $260 million Grand Avenue Bus Depot in Queens, which
began in December 2003 under the last capital plan. The work
is under a design-build contract with Granite Construction
Northeast of Mount Vernon, N.Y., as contractor and Gannett
Fleming of Camp Hill, Pa., as engineer, said the transit agency's
"We wanted to go quickly, and design-build
allows that," she added. "We like to use it when
we're off the right of way."
The 560,000-sq.-ft. depot, slated to
open in August, will hold 200 buses and 27 maintenance bays
and have green features, including a 200,000-gallon underground
rainwater collector tank to supply bus washing water, a 200
KW fuel cell on the roof, and natural lighting.
Another big upgrade in Manhattan is
creating the Fulton Street Transit Center - an $847 million
subway complex that will greatly ease transfers, said Arup's
Palmer, whose firm is designing the project.
"Now, you have 11 lines and six
stations where you go through a rabbit warren to get around,"
he said. "The goal is to open up the space and make it
The 215,000-sq.-ft. job will open up
the maze by demolishing old corridors, adding new passageways
and mezzanines, and building a grand entry hall with a glass-domed
atrium designed by London-based Grimshaw Architects - all
while keeping the stations open for 275,000 riders. The construction
managers, Bovis Lend Lease and Parsons Brinckerhoff, are both
based in New York.
Nagaraja's office scaled back the project
last year after work had begun. The original $750 million
budget is now $847 million, but includes $150 million for
land buys, he said. It is funded by federal redevelopment
money for Lower Manhattan.
Two contracts are under way. Citnalta
of Bohemia, N.Y., is general contractor on a $35 million reconstruction
of two station areas, and Slattery Skanska of Whitestone,
N.Y., is general contractor on a $133 million pedestrian tunnel
to connect the complex to the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey's planned World Trade Center transit hub. A contract
to demolish several buildings to make way for the main hall
is slated for award in June.
"By the end of this year, almost
all of the contracts will be out," Nagaraja said.
A $106 million rehabilitation of the
Columbus Circle subway station in Manhattan is also starting
this spring. It entails rebuilding the roof, upgrading platforms,
and adding a new entrance, which alone will require digging
up W. 60th Street, driving soldier piles, and installing a
precast deck to temporarily support the road, said Rich Ocken,
vice president for Judlau Contracting of College Point, N.Y.,
the general contractor.
"There's a lot of staging and mobilizing
on this job because at Columbus Circle you can't close anything,"
Other big jobs wrapping up include:
- a $192 million overhaul of 4 mi.
of elevated track and 10 stations on the White Plains Road
line in the Bronx. Judlau is rebuilding mezzanines, canopies,
wind screens, and guard rails, while also installing several
elevators, Ocken said.
- installation of communication-based
train control on the Canarsie line, known as the L train,
to replace 70-year-old signal systems. CBTC will run trains
by computer for parts of routes, allowing for closer train
spacing, while funnelling train location data to the agency's
command center and eventually to passengers. A Siemens,
Union Switch, and Railworks joint venture is adding train
and switch equipment, software, and systems for the $287
million job finishing in August.