New subway line, awaited since the 1920s, is set to roll

© The Associated Press FILE- In this April 12, 2007 file photo, a Metropolitan Transit Authority employee climbs the stairs to the street from the partly finished track of the 2nd Avenue subway prior
New NYC subway line, awaited since the 1920s, finally opens

NEW YORK — It's been an on-again, off-again, "believe it when you see it" project since the Jazz Age. Construction started 45 years ago.

But New Yorkers' long wait to take a subway under Manhattan's far Upper East Side ends Sunday, when a stretch of the new Second Avenue line opens to the public.

A ceremonial first ride took place on Saturday night for an invitation-only crowd of dignitaries, about 90 minutes before the New Year's Eve ball drop in Times Square.

Everyday New Yorkers get their first chance to ride at noon on New Year's Day, an opening date Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a priority in recent weeks.

"You could say, 'You were late. It started a hundred years ago,'" Cuomo said Friday at a tour of one of the new stations. But, he added, "we wanted to make a new and different statement as we start this new year."

That statement, he said, was: "Yes, we can do it. This is New York."

The nearly 2-mile segment adds stations along Second Avenue at 96th, 86th and 72nd streets and a new connection to an existing subway line at 63rd Street.

Seen as crucial to alleviating congestion in the nation's biggest subway system, it is on a line expected to carry about 200,000 riders a day. The entire system transports about 5.6 million riders on an average weekday.

The city's transportation board first envisioned a Second Avenue subway in 1929, but the stock market crash and the Great Depression derailed the plan.

Ground was broken in 1972, but a fiscal crisis in the city slammed the brakes on the project again. The project finally got into high gear when major tunneling work began in 2007.

The $4.4 billion section opening Sunday was initially supposed to be completed in 2013. Delays stemmed partly from concerns about construction noise.

Next, the line is slated to expand north into East Harlem. No date has been set for starting that phase of construction.


As Second Avenue Subway Opens, a Train Delay Ends in (Happy) Tears

Finally.

The Second Avenue subway opened in New York City on Sunday, with thousands of riders flooding into its polished stations to witness a piece of history nearly a century in the making.

They descended beneath the streets of the Upper East Side of Manhattan to board Q trains bound for Coney Island in Brooklyn. They cheered. Their eyes filled with tears. They snapped selfies in front of colorful mosaics lining the walls of the stations.

It was the first day of 2017, and it felt like a new day for a city that for so long struggled to build this sorely needed subway line. In a rare display of unbridled optimism from hardened New Yorkers, they arrived with huge grins and wide eyes, taking in the bells and whistles at three new stations.

“I was very choked up,” Betsy Morris, 70, said as she rode the first train to leave the 96th Street station, at noon. “How do you explain something that you never thought would happen? It’s going to change the way everybody lives as far as commuting goes.”

It was a major moment for New York’s sprawling transit system after decades of failed efforts to bring the line to one of the few corners of Manhattan the subway did not reach.

The opening of the first segment of the line — an extension of the Q train to 96th Street — promises to lighten the crush of passengers on the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 trains along Lexington Avenue, the nation’s most overcrowded subway line, which had been the only line on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. When the stations opened shortly before noon, they were quickly filled with giddy riders both young and old, and strollers, suitcases and dogs — all familiar sights across the system.

But for all the excitement, the line, with just three new stops, is much more modest than the ambitious route running the length of Manhattan that was once envisioned. It serves a relatively affluent and not very diverse part of the city, which has more than eight and a half million people and many low-income and minority residents who live far from a subway line. With the subway reaching its highest ridership levels since 1948, much of the aging system is plagued by crowding and delays, even as subway and bus fares are expected to rise again in March.

Still, there was reason to cheer. The opening of a new subway line is a rare occasion in the United States and comes at a time of mounting concern about the deteriorating state of the nation’s infrastructure, from its roadways and bridges to its public transit systems. Few new subway stations have opened in recent years, even as expansive subway networks have sprouted in Asia, and most American cities never built any in the first place.

The major subways in the Northeast — in New York, Washington and Boston — are grappling with old equipment and funding shortfalls, with Washington experiencing a near meltdown over safety problems. With mounting bills for basic maintenance, these subways have largely failed to grow.

So the arrival of the long-delayed Second Avenue subway, which was first proposed in the 1920s, was a notable achievement for the often-vilified Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s vast network of subways, buses and commuter railroads. The first phase of the project took nearly a decade to build and cost about $4.4 billion.

With the opening, the map of the city’s loved and loathed subway adds three new stations, bringing the total to 472 — the most of any subway in the world. A station that opened at Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s Far West Side in 2015 was the city’s first new station in a quarter-century.

On Sunday, New Yorkers were mesmerized by the artwork adorning the walls. At the 72nd Street stop, Sumana Harihareswara stopped to gaze at a mosaic of a woman of South Asian descent dressed in a burgundy sari, looking at her cellphone. Ms. Harihareswara was overcome with emotion.

“I don’t think I’ve ever come across subway art before that makes me feel so seen,” she said through tears. “This woman could be my aunt; she could be my cousin.”

She and a stranger exchanged a knowing glance. “Representation matters,” they agreed. Ms. Harihareswara, a longtime transit enthusiast from Astoria, Queens, said she was struck by the diversity portrayed in the mosaics, including a mural of a gay couple holding hands.

“There is no feeling quite like seeing yourself cemented into the infrastructure of New York,” Ms. Harihareswara said.

After decades of aborted efforts to build the Second Avenue line, and at least three groundbreakings in the 1970s, construction on the current segment began in 2007. The line was originally projected to open in 2013, but subway officials pushed the deadline to the end of 2016 many years ago.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who effectively controls the authority, pressed officials to meet the December 2016 deadline even as concerns grew that the subway would not be ready in time. Still, the agency made the deadline — just barely — with a lavish inaugural ride on New Year’s Eve for a collection of dignitaries that culminated in a midnight toast.

Although many New Yorkers believe the city runs the subways, it is actually the governor who appoints the authority’s chairman and holds considerable sway over the agency. Mr. Cuomo has capitalized on the Second Avenue opening to raise his national profile, overshadowing his frequent nemesis Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who attended the inaugural ride on Saturday but was not given a speaking slot.

Despite general good will over the opening, some transit advocates expressed concerns over the high cost of the project and questioned whether officials would move aggressively to extend the line to 125th Street in East Harlem as planned.

On Sunday morning, Mr. Cuomo arrived at the 96th Street station with the authority’s chairman, Thomas F. Prendergast, to join the first trip for regular riders, who cheered as the train pulled out of the station. Then Mr. Cuomo’s voice came over the loudspeaker. “Rest assured: I’m not driving the train,” he joked.

The first day of service was smooth, although there were a few hiccups. Around 3 p.m., there were delays on the Q line because of a train with mechanical problems at the City Hall station.

About an hour earlier, the elevator at the new 86th Street stop had begun to malfunction, stranding passengers above and below ground. Strollers were wheeled onto steep escalators. Parents became upset. Jill Tallmer, 62, and her mother, Margot Tallmer, 91, contemplated visiting another day.

“We’ve been waiting for 10 years, or more, to ride,” the younger Ms. Tallmer said while standing with her mother, a lifelong New Yorker who is in a wheelchair. “Hopefully, it’s almost ready for us.”

It was not, and they left after a few minutes.

At the 72nd Street station, George Braith, a jazz saxophonist, was being mobbed by an eager pack of veritable paparazzi. The reason for his newfound celebrity: His likeness is featured in a mosaic there.

“Would you look at that guy?” Mr. Braith, 77, said. “Pretty handsome fellow if you ask me.”

He is one of several local celebrities portrayed in the artwork, including chef Daniel Boulud.

In Mr. Braith’s mosaic, he is clad in a slick red blazer and carrying his signature Braithophone, alto and soprano saxophones melded into one. Taking the instrument from his suitcase, he obliged the crowd with a brief tune.

“Are you famous?” a passer-by asked, seeing the hubbub.

“In the jazz world,” Mr. Braith replied.

The man shook his head and said, “Well, you’re immortalized as far as I’m concerned.”

Another opening-day celebrant, Ian Ma, 15, lives in Sheepshead Bay, a waterfront neighborhood in southern Brooklyn that is nowhere near the new subway line. But he has been enchanted by trains since he started rolling toy models on the floor as a child, he said, and he cajoled his parents into giving him a ride.

“I feel like I’ve been waiting for this train my whole life,” he said, seemingly speaking for many others.


NYC welcomes Second Avenue subway

A New York City subway line, first imagined nearly a century ago, is finally rolling. The long-awaited Second Avenue subway opened to the public on Sunday. The multi-billion-dollar project is expected to help hundreds of thousands of daily commuters travel faster across the congested city.

Planning for the Second Avenue subway began back in 1929, but hurdles -- including the Great Depression and the city’s financial crises -- derailed the project.

Now that it’s finally open, 200,000 daily riders are expected to use the new line that the MTA says will cut 10 minutes or more out of people’s travel time.

A stretch of New York’s City’s Second Avenue line opened to the public January 1, exciting not just New Yorkers like Fidel Molina (“After so many years of just closures and delays, we get to finally be here!”), but people from across the country. Raphel Sicinski drove more than nine hours from Virginia for the 10-minute ride.

“I’ve always had a love and passion for trains, and this is something I could not miss,” Sicinski told CBS News.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who pushed for the end-of-the-year deadline, was on hand for the grand opening.

Correspondent Tony Dokoupil asked, “Do you think it’s a model for how governments could get projects done that are big and ambitious?”

“Yes, I do,” Cuomo replied. “Government does not know how to build, alright? Bureaucracies don’t build. It’s a different mindset, it’s a different culture. Leave it to the private sector companies, but let government lay out the overall goals.”

Three new stops make up the roughly two-mile extension of the Q line. The final cost? A staggering $4.5 billion.

“Digging a tunnel down a crowded road in Manhattan is not that easy,” Cuomo laughed.

Other cities, including Washington, D.C., and Chicago, are struggling to update their aging transit systems to meet record ridership. President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to invest a trillion dollars in U.S. infrastructure may help.

But Governor Cuomo says translating that money into shovel-ready projects won’t happen quickly. “Projects can take years to design, do the environmental impact statement, do the community approval process,” he said.

The American Society of Civil Engineers most recently awarded U.S. infrastructure a D+ rating, and estimates that more than $3.5 trillion are needed for improvement.

“If President Trump is going to advertise a trillion dollars, I hope to get a trillion dollars of the trillion dollars,” Governor Cuomo laughed. “I’m sure every state would compete!”

There were a few reported hiccups on the Q line yesterday, including delayed trains and a malfunctioning elevator. Three more phases will create an eventual 8.5-mile mile subway along Second Avenue. But it’s unclear when any of that is expected to be completed.

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