Amid dueling state and federal deadlines for the phase one completion of the 2nd Avenue Subway, Upper East Siders expressed skepticism it would be completed on time while local pols lauded the progress that has been made and urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to keep hitting their targets.
On time, in this case, means Dec. 31, 2016, the MTA’s self-imposed deadline by which paying customers could swipe through the turnstiles and ride a subway line that was first conceived in the 1920s. But the Federal Transit Administration, which provided $1.3 billion for phase one, puts the project’s estimated date of completion at over a year later, on Feb. 28, 2018.
In a federal oversight committee hearing this past June, Matthew Welbes, the executive director of the FTA, said a revised funding agreement reached in March with the MTA includes a completion date of Feb. 28, 2018.
“And that was based on what we agreed to with the MTA. If the MTA can deliver the project sooner, we would be proud to see that happen, right? It looks like the project is trending, based on our data, toward an opening of closer to, maybe early in, sometime in 2017,” said Welbes.
Local elected officials gathered last week outside of the 72nd Street Station to express optimism tinged with expectation.
“In May 2014, the MTA reported that the project was 65 percent finished – and it’s now more than 83 percent complete,” said East Side Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “That’s good news, but they have a lot more to do if they are going to finish it by December 2016.”
Maloney said she wants to make sure the MTA meets their target, and that the best way to do that is to keep a close eye on their progress. “With transportation construction, time really is money,” she said at the press conference. “If the project goes long, costs will go up.”
Last week, during an information session at Temple Israel, locals expressed a measure of skepticism regarding the December 2016 completion date.
“Given what I’ve seen, and all the construction, I have a feeling there’s going to be some slippage,” said David Rosenstein, a Community Board 8 member. “I’m making New Year’s Eve plans to do something else.”
“It’s been noted that the feds seem to be commenting on the later date,” said Elizabeth Patrick, who lives on 72nd Street and Second Avenue. “So we’re wondering.”
“Sorry, but I don’t buy the end of 2016,” said one woman who declined to give her name. “But that’s my skepticism as a New Yorker.”
Her friend, who lives in the same building, was more optimistic and said she thinks the first phase will be ready to ride in accordance with the MTA’s deadline.
Jordan Wouk said the Second Avenue Subway project is a big part of why he and his wife moved back to the area five years ago, to an apartment on Second Avenue and 87th Street, and that the depressed real estate values back then actually worked in their favor. He gives the MTA a 75 percent chance of making the December 2016 deadline.
When asked about the discrepancy between the state deadline and the federal deadline, MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz simply said, “our estimated completion date of December 2016 was determined several years ago and we are confident we can meet that completion date.”
Each of the four stations in phase one are in various stages of completion. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are all around 90 percent complete at the 63rd Street/Lexington Avenue stop, while the architectural and finishing installations are around 75 percent. That station has a budget of $185.3 million.
The MTA didn’t provide completion percentages for the 72nd Street station, which has the second-highest budget of all four stations at $271.3 million. The station will include three entrances, 11 escalators and five street-level accessible elevators. According to literature handed out at the ask the experts session, the work at 72nd Street currently involves the installation of track wall tiles, conduits and duct work at the platform level, as well as mechanical, electrical and plumbing installation at the mezzanine level.
Masonry work at the platform and mezzanine levels is currently taking place at the 86th Street Station, as well as the delivery of systems like elevators and escalators and permanent power equipment. The station, with a budget of $209 million, will feature two entrances, 10 escalators and one street-level escalator. On the surface, contractors are still constructing two ancillary buildings on 83rd Street and 86th Street and will be moving their work and storage areas to the west side of Second Avenue in July.
The 96th Street Station, at $347.3 million, is currently undergoing electrical, plumbing and duct work in the station area. In addition, 15 out of 19 communications, signal and traction power rooms at the station are complete, and workers are installing three out of nine escalators in the main station. The rest will be installed during the build out of the entrances, according to the MTA.
As of the end of April, the MTA estimates phase one is 82.3 percent complete overall.
Maloney said that the MTA is contractually obligated to finish by February 2018, and “both the MTA and FTA are confident that it will finish by then.”
When asked if continued funding of the project is tied to the MTA’s on-time completion of phase one, Maloney said it’s critical for New York to expand its subway service to relieve congestion on the Lexington Avenue line and that by hitting their target, the MTA would be making its case for increased funding that much stronger.
“I believe the MTA’s credibility depends on its meeting its goals for completion, but we need to build phase two – and phases three and four - even if the MTA is a few months late in completing this incredibly large and complex project,” said Maloney. “MTA reaching its goal gives us a much stronger case as we work to deliver additional resources.”