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Cool Digs! NYC’s 2nd Avenue Subway Tunnel in Progress




Making Tracks on the Line That Time Forgot

Talking Points Memo posts some ultra-kool photos of the excavation of the Second Avenue subway tunnel under the East Side of Manhattan that is due to open for business in December 2016—only about a century after the need for an additional East Side subway line was first recognized. (More cool photos can be seen at the MTA’s Flickr page.)

At the same time, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working on an East Side Access megaproject to connect the Long Island Rail Road to a new passenger concourse underneath Grand Central Terminal, which will ease pressure on the LIRR’s longtime (and congested rat-maze) terminus at Penn Station. (More about Penn Station [and high-speed rail] here.) Verily, the MTA’s crews and engineers are infrastructure heroes. We salute you!



Relief for “Terminal Congestion”

The Second Avenue line, on the underserved East Side of Manhattan, has been in the planning stages since 1919 and officially under construction since 1929. For over a century, the only subway line on the East Side has been the Lexington Avenue line, but because the project has been subject to work stoppages over the decades for lack of funding (little impediments like the Great Depression and city bankruptcy), it has been called the Subway Line That Time Forgot. (See the photo below of the Second Avenue El being demolished in 1942 amid public confidence that the subway line would soon handle its traffic.) In New York City the Second Avenue subway has long been a running joke, akin to hell freezing over, pigs flying, and other things that will never happen (“Yeah, sure, I’ll pay you back as soon as I catch the Second Avenue train”). But, as we can see, progress is being made—progress and well-paying jobs.

Yes, America, here is evidence, too, that if we push our elected officials hard enough, and lobby the right business leaders unrelentingly, infrastructure projects can get under way, and they can even be completed. The new (restored) streetcar lines in New Orleans are another example. If the Second Avenue line can be completed, anything can happen!

Click here to Tell Your Senators to Support High-Speed Rail.

See also: 

•  “Public Works in a Time of Job-Killing Scrooges,” written after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie shockingly canceled his state’s participation in a large federal and multi-state project that was digging a much-needed railroad tunnel under the Hudson River from Jersey to Penn Station.

•  “Framing the Case for Infrastructure Investment, Taxing the Rich

•  “Mad About Trains—High-Speed Trains

•  “Tickets to Ride: Obama, Biden on Track with High-Speed Rail Projects

•  “Get Congress on Track to Stimulate Mass Transit


1 big tunnel


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4 Responses to “Cool Digs! NYC’s 2nd Avenue Subway Tunnel in Progress”

  1. John Leech Says:

    My mother likes the phrase “alternate routes” – in Seattle that’s “taking a boat” … they are now digging a new tunnel through downtown to replace the aging Alaska Way viaduct on US-99 … which resembles the Cypress Structure (Oakland) and follows a fault line

  2. John Leech Says:

    Once on the 4 train from midtown to Wall Street I started dozing and dreaming about Reverend Billy … as my eyes opened they met his. Sitting across the train, waiting for me to wake back up and say hello. Since I worked on Madison and frequented a bookshop up in Yorkville I might well’ve been a 2nd Ave train rider…. may well be yet!

  3. Levees Not War Says:

    Thanks, John. Your mother is right. Alternate routes are always good to have—and so are alternate means of getting from here to there. Manhattan could use the old crosstown streetcars that ran east–west on 14th Street, 23rd Street, 34th, and so on (where the subway stations are now). The old streetcar lines are listed on this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_streetcar_lines_in_Manhattan

  4. Levees Not War Says:

    Hopefully you’ll be a 2nd Ave rider as often as you like! • Your anecdote sounds like Joan Osborne’s “One of Us”: “What if God was one of us / Just a stranger on the bus / Tryin’ to make his way home . . .”

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