Second Ave Subway’s Breakneck Pace to Hit December 31

Subway buff Max Diamond captured this photo of subway cars testing the new Second Avenue Subway line in October. | MAX DIAMOND

BY JACKSON CHEN | With just over two weeks until the expected launch of the Second Avenue Subway’s first phase, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority chair and CEO, Thomas Prendergast, reiterated that the agency is “cautiously optimistic” for the end-of-the-year opening.

The Second Avenue Subway’s first phase will bring three new stations at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets and connect to the Lexington Avenue/ 63rd Street stop for the Q, F, and N trains. While testing of the tracks was first spied by the public in October, monthly updates presented during recent MTA meetings had cast some doubt as to whether the project would meet its deadline.

“We still have some critical testing to do but we’re confident we’re going to get it done,” Prendergast said at the MTA full board meeting on December 14. “Contractors… have worked around the clock to catch up so that we can make sure Second Avenue opens and we meet our promise.”

The MTA chair added there was additional pressure from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who also expressed cautious optimism after recent visits to the new subway stations under construction.

The most recent independent engineer reports from the December 12 MTA Capital Program Oversight Committee meeting also indicated that the project seems to be on track.

“The rate of test completions, which has been a concern of mine for several months, has increased greatly,” Kent Haggas, the independent engineer, said. “And I feel that it’s now on track to finish by the end of the year.”

Haggas, who expressed concern in November that an “unprecedented” amount of work would have to be undertaken to meet the year-end opening, explained at this week’s meeting that the systems and station tests, building code verifications, and safety verifications are moving along well given a December 31 deadline.

Haggas added that the remaining critical work included tests of communications systems, fire alarm systems, and service booths. Also, according to the December update by Anil Parikh, MTA Capital Construction’s senior vice president and program executive, the remaining testing for the HVAC and PA systems would be completed by December 23 and 24, respectively.

With completion dates cutting so close to the December 31 target, MTA board member Veronica Vanterpool asked if there were any contingency plans if the testing from now until December 24 failed to meet its schedule.

In response, Prendergast doubled down on his insistence that the current pace of work should deliver service on time.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re going to meet the revenue service date, that’s it in a nutshell,” Prendergast said. “We’re focused on getting the testing commissioning done and the observations done. We’ve more than doubled the level of effort, that’s as clear as I can state it.”