Second Avenue Subway: Long Range Plan

From nycsubway.org

Excerpted from Developing a Long-Range Transportation Plan, U.S. Department of Transportation. Prepared by New York City Department of Transportation, pages 84-85.

As designed by the Transit Authority in the early 1970's, the Second Avenue line would run from Co-Op City in the Bronx, down the east side of Manhattan, to a terminal on the southeastern edge of the Financial District. In addition, two separate track connections with the upper level of the 63rd Street line would be provided.

One connection would allow some Second Avenue trains from the Bronx to turn west onto the 63rd Street line and run down the central spine of the Manhattan CBD on the Sixth Avenue IND or the Broadway BMT. The second connection would allow some 63rd Street line trains from Queens to turn south onto the Second Avenue line to reach lower Manhattan. Both connections are highly desirable and would help integrate the Second Avenue line into the IND/BMT system.

A third connection (not included in the early 1970's design work) should be added if work on the Second Avenue line is resumed. Instead of terminating in the Financial District, the line should turn roughly east at this point and run under the East River to Brooklyn, connecting with the local tracks of the Fulton Street IND line at its Court Street station (now the location of the Transit Museum) . This would restore the original concept of the Second Avenue line as an integral trunk line of the IND system. The lack of a separate Manhattan entry for the Fulton Street line's local tracks reduces this overcrowded line's passenger capacity by 50 percent, since local trains and express trains must share the same pair of tracks in the Fulton Street tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Therefore, completion of the Second Avenue line with this connection would also double the Fulton Street line's passenger capacity, as well as completely integrating the Second Avenue line into the IND/BMT system.

The main reason why the 70 year planning history of the Second Avenue line has never yielded a working subway is because its high capital cost and lengthy construction period always seem to place it just beyond our functional reach, so postponements become inevitable. The best way to avoid this in the future might be to adopt an "incremental" approach to its construction that would yield relatively early transportation benefits for each additional stage of investment.

Here is an example of such an incremental schedule.

  1. Begin by extending the proposed Forty-Second Street trolley line northward in a reserved right-of-way on Second Avenue and across one of the existing Harlem River bridges to a park-ride and express bus transfer facility in the South Bronx.
  2. Extend the trolley line south along the Second Avenue alignment to the Financial District.
  3. Build new tunnels (to IND standards) for the trolley line under the Harlem River and under the East River to Brooklyn.
  4. Over time, construct subway segments (to IND standards) for the trolley line under Second Avenue.
  5. Once the entire trolley line has been placed underground, its conversion to full subway operation is a relatively simple matter.
  6. Thereafter, the line would be extended through the Bronx (on the surface, utilizing available railroad right-of- ways) to eventually reach Co-op City.

Such a scenario might take a long time to play out completely. Possibly even as long as another 70 years. But during this period, new increments of service would be coming into operation. And we would retain the option to stop at any point (for a few years or forever) without losing the benefits of the investments already made.

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