BY JACKSON CHEN | Despite continued public skepticism that the Second Avenue Subway will meet its year-end deadline for opening, testing of the new line is underway, according to both the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and video footage taken by transit enthusiast Max Diamond.
In Diamond’s video, taken on October 9, two models of trains — the modern R160s and the more dated R68As — were seen cruising by at the Lexington Avenue–63rd Street stop.
“It’s definitely an historic moment,” Diamond told Manhattan Express. “There has not been a lot of times in the last half century where we’ve been able to see a new subway line testing.”
Diamond, who also goes by his online handle Dj Hammers, said he was waiting for his train at the Upper East Side station when he heard a train arriving, but out of sight. He said he quickly realized the MTA was conducting test runs of the Second Avenue Subway line on the upper level of the station and went to capture video.
Through a publically accessible area, the subway buff said he was able to get a good view of the testing by standing on a staircase. He recorded several trains passing by:
Diamond’s video captured views inside the subway cars, some of which contained large rectangular structures, positioned there, he explained, to make up for the lack of actual passengers during the test runs.
“Those boxes are just weight to simulate passenger crowds; some trains had them, some didn’t,” Diamond said. “[The MTA] wants to make sure the power system can handle multiple trains on the line at the same time and if the train is loaded with a full load of passengers.”
MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz confirmed that testing was underway.
“We are beginning various tests all along the Second Avenue Subway, as we said we would,” Ortiz said. “That testing includes some train runs, which began this weekend.”
Ortiz added that the December 31 opening date of the Second Avenue Subway, which has been touted repeatedly by the MTA, has not changed.
The most recent quarterly progress update from the MTA Capital Construction division, however, casts more than a shadow of doubt on the agency’s ability to meet that deadline. A September 26 report to the MTA Board’s Capital Program Oversight Committee indicated that entrances and elevators for the 72nd Street Station and fire alarm testing throughout the line could possibly affect the opening date.
After witnessing the testing, Diamond said it’s simply a waiting game to see if MTA hits its mark.
“I just wouldn’t really have enough info to tell you whether or not they’ll make it or not,” Diamond said. “But testing is definitely a good sign, and at least the tracks, signals, power supply, and platforms are in good enough shape that trains can run up and down that line under their own power.”
The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway, which was initially discussed as early as 1919, will include new stations at 96th, 86th, and 72nd Streets to connect to the existing system at the Lexington Avenue–63rd Street stop. When finally completed – more than a decade from now – the new line will extend 8.5 miles from 125th Street in East Harlem to Hanover Street downtown.