Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Second Avenue Line
The Second Avenue Line, usually called the Second Avenue Subway (SAS), refers to a series of public works projects and engineering studies undertaken to construct a subway underneath Second Avenue in New York City's borough of Manhattan. A dream for nearly a century, Second Avenue has yet to see significant progress towards this goal. The SAS is often cited as a particularly egregious example of bureaucratic largesse and government ineptitude. However, the reasons for its failure thus far are varied and complex.
Manhattan's Upper East Side currently has only one subway, the four-track Lexington Avenue Line. The SAS would add another two tracks to fill the gap that has existed since the elevated IRT Third Avenue Line was removed in 1955.
The need for a subway line under Manhattan's Second Avenue was realized shortly after the First World War. In 1919, New York's Public Service Commission launched a study at the behest of engineer Daniel L. Turner to determine what improvements were needed in the city's mass transit system.
The Turner Plan
Turner's final paper, titled Proposed Comprehensive Rapid Transit System was a massive plan calling for new routes under almost every north-south Manhattan avenue, extensions to lines in Brooklyn and Queens, and several crossings of The Narrows to Staten Island. Massively scaled-down versions of some of Turner's plans were found in proposals for the new city-owned Independent Subway (IND). Among the plans for Phase II of the IND's construction, commonly called the IND Second System, was a massive trunk line under Second Avenue consisting of at least six tracks and numerous branches throughout Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx.
IND Second System
In 1929, the Board of Transportation tentatively approved the IND Second System, which included a Second Avenue Line with a projected construction cost of $98,900,000, not counting land acquisition. From north to south, the 1929 plan included four tracks from the Harlem River (where it would continue north as a Bronx trunk line with several branches) to 125th Street, six tracks from 125th Street to a link with the Sixth Avenue Line at 61st Street, four tracks from 61st Street to Chambers Street, and two tracks from Chambers Street to Pine Street.
Due to the effects of the Great Depression, the soaring costs of the Second System became unmanageable. Construction on the first phase of the IND was already behind schedule, and the city and state were no longer able to provide funding. A scaled down proposal including a turnoff at 34th Street and a connection crosstown was postponed in 1931.
Further revision of the plan and more studies followed. By 1939, construction had been postponed indefinitely, and Second Avenue was relegated to "proposed" status. The 1939 plan for subway expansion took the line not only into the Bronx (by now as a single line to Throgs Neck) but also south into Brooklyn, connecting to the stub of the IND Fulton Street Line at Court Street.
Finally, in 1945, plans for the Second Avenue Subway were again revised. The southern two-track portion was abandoned as a possible future plan for connecting the line to Brooklyn. By 1950, the plans called for a connection from Second Avenue at 76th Street to 34th Avenue in Queens, via a new tunnel under the East River. The city was able to raise money for the construction effort—just barely—but the onset of the Korean War caused soaring prices for construction materials and saw the beginning of massive inflation.
A 1947 plan once again connected the Second Avenue Line to Brooklyn, but via the trackage over the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. A connection would allow trains from these bridges to go onto the IND Sixth Avenue Line rather than the Second Avenue Line. Other connections to the Second Avenue Line were to be provided at 57th Street, via a line connecting to the Sixth Avenue Line; two express tracks would be built along that line north of West Fourth Street . The IRT Pelham Line would be switched to the combined /BMT division (this plan also includes other connections, which have been built), and connected to the Second Avenue Line. The Second Avenue Line would end just north of that connection, at 149th Street, with transfers to the IRT White Plains Road Line and the elevated IRT Third Avenue Line, the latter of which would be demolished south of 149th.
The southernmost part of the 1947 plan, connecting the two BMT bridges to the IND Sixth Avenue Line was built in the 1960s and opened in 1967 as the Chrystie Street Connection. Other parts of that plan were carried out, including the connection at 57th Street (moved to 63rd Street) and the abandonment of the IRT Third Avenue Line south of 149th Street, but the rest of the Second Avenue Line was not built. Plans now call for an additional two tracks in the Chrystie Street area for the Second Avenue mainline; current plans have the new tracks under the old ones, while older plans had one track on each side of the Chrystie Street Connection.
In 1964, Congress passed the Urban Mass Transit Act , promising federal money to fund mass transit projects in America's cities via the Urban Mass Transportation Administration . In 1967, voters approved a massive $2.5 billion Transportation Bond Issue, which provided over $600 million for New York City projects. The Second Avenue project was given top priority, and would stretch from 34th Street to The Bronx. The City secured a UMTA grant for initial construction, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 27, 1972. Construction began shortly thereafter.
However, the city soon experienced its most dire crisis yet. The stagnant economy of the 1970s combined with massive outflow of city residents to the suburbs led to fiscal disaster for the city. Construction of the subway was halted, with only three sections of tunnel having been completed, as well as the Chrystie Street Connection. These sections are between Pell and Canal, 99th and 105th, and 110th and 120th Streets. The one from Pell to Canal will not be used under the current preferred alternative, which will be lower. Construction was also begun between 2nd and 9th Streets, though the extent is unknown; some rumors say that only utilities were relocated, while others say that it was excavated but filled back in.
The SAS Today
Beginning with the city's economic recovery in the 1990s, efforts were again made to complete construction of the SAS. Rising ridership on the Lexington Avenue Line, the only subway line east of Central Park in Manhattan, further pushed the need for the Second Avenue Subway as capacity and safety concerns rose. The current plan calls for a two-track line extending from 125th street to Hanover Square. A connection to the Broadway-BMT Line via the BMT 63rd Street Line will allow Broadway-BMT trains to use the SAS. To facilitate construction of the SAS to relieve congestion on the Lexington Avenue line, the Second Avenue line will be built and opened in sections beginning with a connection to the unused platform on the BMT 63rd Street Line's Lexington Avenue station. The Second Avenue line will then slowly extend north and south from this first section. The MTA's final environmental impact statement was approved in April 2004, with the goal of beginning construction by the second quarter of 2005.
As of now, the plans for the Second Avenue Subway involve digging 8.5 miles of new track from Harlem south to the Financial District. The new stations of the Second Avenue trunk line are proposed as follows:
|Station||Phase||Transfers & notes|
|125th Street||2|| (Lexington Avenue Line/Jerome Avenue Line /Pelham Line )|
connection to 125th Street ()
at Lexington Avenue and 125th Street
|BMT 63rd Street Line () splits (phase 1)|
|55th Street||3|| (Queens Boulevard Line)|
(Lexington Avenue Line) (Transfers under evaluation
|42nd Street||3|| (Flushing Line)|
(Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle)
4 5 (1234) <5> (1a) 6 <6> (12) (Lexington Avenue Line)
connection to Grand Central Terminal (Metro-North) (Transfers under evaluation)
|14th Street||3||(Canarsie Line) (Transfer under evaluation)|
|Houston Street||3||(Sixth Avenue Line) (Transfer under evaluation)|
|Grand Street||4|| (Chrystie Street Connection)|
below the Chrystie Street Connection station (Construction under evaluation)
|Chatham Square||4||at Worth Street|
|Seaport||4||at Fulton Street|
|Hanover Square||4||at Old Slip|
The above stations will serve the Second Avenue main service, terminating at 125th Street and at Hanover Square. In addition to the main service, tentatively dubbed the T, a connection is planned to the Broadway-BMT Line, utilizing an existing connection via the BMT 63rd Street Line, as part of phase 1. It is likely that the Q service will be extended northward from Midtown-57th Street-Seventh Avenue , curving east under Central Park on the unused portion of the BMT 63rd Street Line. The Q would stop at Lexington Avenue with a cross-platform transfer to the main part of the IND 63rd Street Line () before merging with the Second Avenue Line at 64th Street. Thus, residents of east Harlem and the Upper East Side will have direct mass transit service down Second Avenue to the Financial District as well as direct service down Broadway to the Financial District and across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn.
An additional two-track connection is planned between the line towards Lower Manhattan (around 62nd Street) and the IND 63rd Street Line towards Queens; current plans don't call for it to be used by regular service. Provisions are also being made for an extension north under Second Avenue past 125th Street to The Bronx, and an extension south to Brooklyn. No track connection will be provided to the IND Chrystie Street Connection.
Just north of Broome Street, the subway will pass under a short unused highway tunnel, the only part of the Lower Manhattan Expressway to be built.
- The Second Avenue Subway Line: The line that almost never was
- NYCsubway.org - Completed Portions of the 2nd Avenue Subway
- MTA Resources
- Subway Expansion to Cost $400,000,000 Proposed for City, New York Times December 15, 1947 page 1
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