Photos by Richard Barnes for the New York Times
Seeing as Gothamist is one of New York City's premier digital media outlets, Hipstomp didn't exactly have to dig up Jake Dobkin's photos of the new 7 Train Extension, though I was duly impressed with the follow-up post on Tunnel Boring Machines (like many of the commenters, I could spend hours checking out boring photos and videos).
The Paper of Record has recently taken an interest, plunging some 80 feet below Midtown Manhattan to unearth both the logistical and human side of the story of the Second Avenue Subway, with photos by Richard Barnes. Along with the video, it's a bit more subterranean transit porn for those of us who give a schist.
"Geology defines the way you drive the tunnel," [Engineering Manager Amitabha] Mukherjee said. The bedrock below Second Avenue and for much of the rest of Manhattan is schist—a hard, gray black rock shot through with sheets of glittery mica. Some 500 million years ago, Manhattan was a continental coastline that collided with a group of volcanic islands known as the Taconic arc. That crash crumpled layers of mud, sand and lava into schist, lending it an inconsistent structure and complicating tunneling: in some places, the schist holds firmly together, creating self-supporting arches; in others, it's broken and prone to shattering, forcing workers to reinforce the tunnel as they go to keep it from falling.
The first time New York confronted its bedrock to build a subway, in 1900, the method was "cut and cover": nearly 8,000 laborers given to gambling, fighting and swearing were hired to pickax and dynamite their way through streets and utility lines for two miles. Their efforts were quick—they finished in four years—but their blasts smashed windows and terrorized carriage horses. Tunnels collapsed, killing workers and swallowing storefronts.
The felicitously parallel universe of a certain concurrent blockbuster notwithstanding, the images offer a look at a work-in-progress on a prodigious—yet largely unseen—scale. The first two-mile span of the once-fabled Second Avenue Subway, from 63rd St to 96th, is set to open in December 2016 (the earlier set of photos was from the less ambitious crosstown line, which will mark the westernmost terminal of the subway system when it opens in 2014/2015). Insofar as the new track is scheduled to open in four score and seven years since the original proposal (in the flush-then-very-lean times of 1929), the MTA's ongoing budget woes have been the real bane of workaday Gothamites.
Don't miss the video after the jump...
Truly remarkable stuff.