February 7, 2013

Massive tunnel project to expand NY transit hub

Verena Dobnik / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Contractors work on the East Side Access project beneath midtown Manhattan, in New York. The East Side Access is one of three bold projects under New York that will expand what's already the nation's biggest mass-transit system by 2019.

AP

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In this undated artist's rendering provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York show the Mezzanine node of the Second Avenue Subway at 46th Street in New York City. The Second Avenue Subway is being built to ease rider congestion on Lexington Avenue trains.

AP

Finally, there's the extension of the No. 7 subway line from Times Square to a huge new real estate development on Manhattan's Far West Side, New York's biggest besides the World Trade Center. It's called Hudson Yards, a small urban village of high-rises, parkland, retail businesses and cultural institutions in the West 30s.

Moody's Investors Service calls this subway extension — financed through $2.1 billion worth of city-issued bonds — "a key milestone towards attracting development."

"These are vital projects, and they'll reinforce the infrastructure of the city," says Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University. "It's not just about people going to work; the New York subway and rail systems are busy 24 hours a day, taking people shopping, to theaters, to clubs."

The city's 468 subway stations register more than 1.6 billion rides a year. The system is used by more than 5 million daily riders. The Metro in Washington, D.C., has about 800,000, and San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit has about 400,000.

The three mammoth projects require creative solutions and the latest technology.

When crews prepared to drill the giant new cavity under Second Avenue, they first had to freeze the ground to about minus 20 degrees so as not to destabilize the buildings above as the boring machine cut through. For that, aluminum tubes were inserted from the street and a special chemical solution was poured into the ground and cooled by a refrigeration plant.

The Second Avenue tunnels hold a space-age surprise: The ceilings are coated with a material once used to fireproof the space shuttle.

The new line has another major improvement. Instead of ventilation grates that allow rainwater to pour in, the new stations will be aired using enclosed cooling plants. When Superstorm Sandy hit the city last October, floodwaters washing over the East Side did not penetrate subway construction sites.

"We're using the best technology available today, but this is really people-intensive work," says Horodniceanu, who supervises a team of thousands of workers on any given day.

"I feel I have the most exciting job in the world," he says. "It's an incredible feeling to be able to build a legacy project. I hope that one day, my grandchildren will be able to say their granddad built this!"

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