IND 6th Avenue Line
The IND 6th Avenue Line at 42nd Street/Bryant Park. R-46 car 6088 bringing up the tail end of an F service. Photo by David Pirmann, August 2008.
The Sixth Avenue line was the last of the Manhattan subway lines to be built, and the most complex due to the prior existence of the BMT Broadway, PATH's 6th Avenue line, and Amtrak/LIRR tunnels. Ground was broken on March 12, 1936, and service between 47th-50th Streets and West 4th Street (lower level) began December 15, 1940. The 6th Avenue line was constructed as a four track subway between the 53rd Street junctions and the 34th Street/Herald Square station, and two tracks south of 34th Street connecting to the local trackways at West 4th Street lower level. The four-track subway along Houston Street from West Fourth Street to 2nd Avenue, and the two tracks further to East Broadway, was completed earlier, with shuttle service from West 4th Street beginning in January 1936. The Rutgers Street tunnel and the York Street station on the Brooklyn side opened April 9, 1936.
In 1968, major changes came to the 6th Avenue line as part of the so-called Chrystie Street Connection project. This relatively short stretch of new subway from the Manhattan Bridge to the Houston Street subway east of Broadway-Lafayette station had far-reaching implications to service throughout the system, but most directly to the IND 6th Avenue and to the BMT lines that crossed the Manhattan Bridge.
Essentially, the Manhattan Bridge had been built with two pairs of tracks, the "north side" and the "south side". When constructed, the Manhattan end of the north side tracks fed the BMT Broadway Subway via Canal Street, and the south side tracks fed the BMT Nassau Loop north of Chambers Street. This track map will illustrate the Manhattan Bridge connections prior to the Chrystie Street work. It was apparent, due to the rising importance of the midtown parts of Manhattan, that the bridge's south side, feeding toward downtown Manhattan, was being underutilized.
So it was decided to rearrange the Manhattan connections; the south side of the bridge would be connected to the BMT Broadway Subway at Canal Street and the connection to the Nassau Street line would be severed. A new subway would be constructed under the blocks between Chrystie Street and Forsyth Street from the Manhattan Bridge to Houston Street, connecting to the IND 6th Avenue/Houston Street line heading toward Broadway/Lafayette station. Connections were also made allowing trains from Brooklyn on the Williamsburg bridge to access the 6th Avenue subway, providing a lot more potential for service to midtown. A new station was built along Chrystie Street at Grand Street, which opened November 28, 1967.
To accommodate all of this new traffic to be flowing along 6th Avenue, the express tracks between West 4th Street and 34th Street were constructed. An extension northward past 47th-50th Street under 6th Avenue was also constructed, and a station situated at 57th Street to terminate some of these new services. The 57th Street terminal station opened on July 1, 1968. It was expected that this stub would eventually tie into the 63rd Street tunnel which had been approved in 1962 and was constructed during the 1970s.
The 63rd Street tunnel was designed to connect the IND 6th Avenue and BMT Broadway lines at their northern ends to the 2nd Avenue subway and further into Queens. There were grandiose plans to construct a new Queens Super-Express line for the tunnel traffic, but fiscal tightening had the tunnel instead connected into the IND Queens Boulevard Line just southwest of 36th Street in Queens. Provision was allowed for any further developments of a new Super Express line. From 57th Street on the 6th Avenue line, the 63rd Street tunnel and connections in Queens added 3.2 miles of new subway and stations at 63rd & Lexington, Roosevelt Island, and 21st Street-Queensbridge.
Service through the tunnel to 21st Street-Queensbridge began on October 29, 1989. From 1989-2001, the primary service pattern saw the "Q" train extended from 57th Street/6th Avenue running through the tunnel and terminating at 21st/Queensbridge during rush hours and middays, and the "B" train servicing the tunnel during evening and overnight hours. The connection between the 63rd Street Tunnel and the IND Queens Boulevard subway line was completed in 2001. Service changes after the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center delayed the opening, and service subsequently began on December 16, 2001, resulting in the service patterns operating now.
Despite there being a connection from 63rd Street also to the BMT Broadway subway, no regular service from the Broadway line has been operated. There have been some instances of construction projects related to the Queens Boulevard junction requiring shuttle operation servicing the tunnel's stations from the Broadway line, terminating at 34th St. or 57th St.
The 63rd Street tunnel was designed in conjunction with the 2nd Avenue Subway and both were expected to be built simultaneously beginning in the 1970s. As a result, the 63rd Street Tunnel and the 6th Avenue line is intricately interwoven with the plans for the 2nd Avenue subway. Provisions for connection or cross-platform transfer between the 6th Ave. line and the planned 2nd Ave. line happen at:
- 63rd Street/2nd Avenue tunnel junction. The 63rd Street tunnel junction will allow 2nd Avenue and 6th Avenue trains to head to Queens Boulevard, and Broadway trains to head north along 2nd Avenue. When the upper 2nd Avenue line is completed, its initial operation will involve an extension of a service from the Broadway line.
- 63rd Street/Lexington Avenue Station. Behind the platform wall on each level is a second track from the Broadway line intended for future connection to the 2nd Avenue line. The track is currently used for midday layups.
- Second Avenue Station. Provision for an upper level station serving the 2nd Avenue line, crossing the platforms of the 6th Avenue/Houston Street line, was built during the original 1936 construction of this station.
- Grand Street Station. At Grand Street, there may or may not have been provision made for two additional tracks along the outside of Grand Street Station to serve as 2nd Avenue Subway. It's not clear if this was actually built despite the idea to do so.
On March 20, 2007, the MTA awarded a $337 million tunnelling contract for the first phase of the 2nd Avenue subway to the consortium of Schiavone/Shea/Skanska. When this first extension, to 2nd Av and 96th street, is completed, the Q-Broadway Express will be extended from its current terminal at 57th St and 7th Av, across 63rd Street to a new transfer point with the F train at Lexington and 63rd, and thence to the new terminal. The train will also make stops along 2nd Av at 72nd Street and 86th Street. Phase 2 of the subway project will extend the Broadway-2nd Av service again to a transfer point with the Lexington Av IRT at 125 Street.
The 63rd Street Tunnel is also playing a large role in the LIRR's grand plan to bring trains into Grand Central Terminal. As built, the 63rd Street Tunnel consists of two levels, the upper level serving the subway lines as described above, and an as-yet-unused lower level designed for future LIRR use. The lower level was built with bellmouths at either end (and in fact the Queens bellmouths were extended a short distance as part of the Queens Boulevard subway junction construction). In the spring of 2006, MTA awarded a contract to extend the LIRR tunnel under Northern Blvd. (necessitating the underpinning of the BMT subway, as well as constructing slurry walls to carry ground water away) and create the Queens Portal; in July of 2006, MTA awarded the consortium of Dragados Judlau a $439 million contract to extend the western end of the tunnel from Second Av and 63rd Street to Grand Central Terminal via deep boring. Dragados is procuring four TBM drives for this purpose The Grand Central Terminal portion would be new track construction on the lower level of the terminal, and would not tie in to the existing Metro-North trackage (incompatibility of third-rail types will probably prevent this for the foreseeable future). The LIRR service would provide relief to the Queens Boulevard and Flushing lines for passengers traveling from eastern Queens to Grand Central. With luck, passengers will ride the new service beginning in 2012.
The MTA completed all EIS and preliminary engineering work in the summer of 1992. Parsons-Brinkerhoff began design of the 63rd Street Connector in 1992; construction finally began in July 1994 after the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) concluded a Full Funding Grant Agreement with the MTA. The MTA spent a grand total of $645 million on the project, with the FTA's Section 5309 New Start program supplying $306.1 million and the MTA the remainder. This diagram details the construction work and contracts of this project.
The Connector project actually consisted of several tasks involving significant engineering challenges:
- Extensive rehabilitation of eight miles of the existing 63rd Street tunnels, including new signals and track crossovers.
- Extending both levels of the 63rd Street tunnel 1300 feet and joining the upper level to existing subway lines by means of new ramps; the lower level, belonging to the LIRR, was extended as MTA proceeded with plans to connect this tunnel to the LIRR's Main Line and Port Washington Branch.
- Widening the main Queens Boulevard corridor line between 33rd and 36th Street to six tracks, two of which being ramps entering below the main line and rising to switches west of 36th Street station, allowing trains to access either local or express tracks.
- Constructing diversion tunnels to allow existing subway services to continue operating without interruption.
- Tunneling 20 feet under the Northern Boulevard subway, and underpinning, the existing Northern Boulevard roadway, buildings and express tracks. This required the contractors to cut deep shafts through 140 ft. of rock after slurry walls were built. The new tunnels then had to penetrate an inverted concrete plug.
- Providing up to 90-foot wide temporary roadway surfaces to allow automobiles to operate unimpeded.
- Integration of two four-story, 8,000 square foot ventilation buildings located at 29th Street and 39th Street.
- Lowering of a sewer siphon 50 feet to make room for a new tunnel.
- Mitigation of significant ground water.
- Construction of a new TA employee facility.
The 63rd Street Extension had cost $898 million; the total cost of the completed line as of 2001 came to $1.54 billion. The Connector's work was performed mostly outside of business hours and on weekends, over seven years, in order not to disrupt existing subway service.
The 63rd Street line continues east under 41 Avenue, crossing 20 feet under the Northern Boulevard subway; each track turns northeasterly and climbs a ramp between newly designated local and express tracks west of 36th Street station.
MTA's service plan was designed to increase total train capacity between Queens and Manhattan by about 20%. It created an additional weekday local train, the V, to replace the F train in the 53rd Street tunnel, and shifted the F train permanently to the 63rd Street tunnel. The F now operates as an express between 21 Street-Queensbridge and Roosevelt Boulevard stations, but can be easily diverted to the local track if needed. The G train was truncated to a new terminal at Court Square; in effect, the G represented passenger carrying capacity to Brooklyn which was redirected to Manhattan. To compensate G riders for this loss of direct Queens-Brooklyn service, a free MetroCard transfer was created between the 7, G and the E and V trains at 23rd-Ely Av station, and a moving sidewalk was installed; to mitigate the impact on F riders who normally used the 53rd-Lexington station's free interchange, another free MetroCard transfer was created between the IND 63rd-Lexington Av station and the IRT 59th-Lexington Av station. Future plans call for additional physical improvements to the stations in the Court Square area, to improve passenger comfort and provide ADA access. The 63rd Street tunnel also provides MTA with additional flexibility in the event of either scheduled or unscheduled closure of either the 60th Street or 53rd Street tunnels.
|IND 6th Avenue Line|
By Peggy Darlington, Ron Aryel, and David Pirmann. Map by Timothy Anderson.