Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s ceremonial ride on the No. 7 train earlier in December to the line’s future stop at 34th Street and 11th Avenue was premature until they find $500 million more to build the promised intermediate station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street. This station was deleted from the original scope of work in 2007 as a cost saving measure to complete the No. 7 line extension within the available project budget. The original budget grew from $2.1 billion to $2.4 billion. The anticipated first day of revenue service slipped six months from December 2013 to a new anticipated date of June 2014.
When praising this project, Bloomberg failed to identify other critical subway extensions that were built after 1950.
On Nov. 26, 1967, the Chrystie Street connection was opened. This linked the BMT line (today’s B and D lines) via the Manhattan Bridge to the IND Sixth Avenue line. This provided new operational and service options for the New York City Transit benefiting several hundred thousand Brooklyn residents.
On Dec. 11, 1988 the Archer Avenue subway line was opened at a cost of $440 million. Thanks to this investment, the J/Z and E lines provide direct service to both the Long Island Rail Road Jamaica Station and a new terminus at Jamaica Center at Archer Avenue and Parsons Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. There are additional new stations including Jamaica/Van Wyck and Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue.
On Dec. 16, 2001 the 63rd Street Tunnel between Queens and Manhattan was opened at a cost of $650 million. This included new stations at 21st Street Queensbridge, Roosevelt Island and Lexington Avenue/63rd Street. Thanks to this investment, the Queens Boulevard. F line continues to provide direct service to the 6th Avenue corridor in Manhattan without having to use the older 53rd Street tunnel between Queens and Manhattan. This affords riders additional service options for those traveling between Queens to Manhattan.
Bloomberg’s real plans for extension of the No. 7 subway to New Jersey after many years never got beyond a basic planning feasibility study. This study released several years ago by the New York City Economic Development Corporation looked into the feasibility of extending the Flushing, Queens No. 7 subway extension beyond the 34th Street and 11th Avenue station adjacent to both the Hudson Yards development project and Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan to New Jersey Transit’s Secaucus Junction station by Exit 15X on the New Jersey Turnpike was just the beginning. A planning feasibility study is just what it says, a study. There were no environmental documents or preliminary design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any initial estimated actual costs to complete this proposed project. These costs will be refined as projects progress beyond the planning and environmental phases into real and final design efforts. Value engineering, which is a process used to reduce costs, will be used during the final design phase.
Unfortunately, history has shown that estimated costs for construction usually trend upwards as projects mature toward 100 percent final design. Progression of final design refines the detailed scope of work necessary to support construction. The anticipated final potential cost for many of these projects will never be known until completion. Costs will be further refined by award of construction contracts followed by any unforeseen site conditions and change orders to the base contracts during the course of construction.
History has told us that construction of most major new transportation system expansion projects have taken decades. This is due to completion of feasibility studies, environmental reviews, planning, design, engineering, real estate acquisition, permits, procurements, construction, budgeting, identifying and securing funding to pay for all of the above.
It will end up costing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority $2.4 billion provided primarily by the City of New York to extend the No. 7 subway one stop or 11 blocks from the existing Times Square 42nd Street Station to the new Javits Convention Center. No one really knows how many billions more would be required to build a new tunnel under the Hudson River with billions more needed for work on both the Manhattan and New Jersey sides of the River.
Remember that the existing Flushing, Queens subway yard is already operating at capacity. This facility built adjacent to wetlands has little opportunity for expansion. A second storage yard might have to be built at a site in New Jersey preferably as close as possible to any new station adjacent to the existing New Jersey Transit Secaucus Transfer Station. It would be difficult to dead head all the equipment from the current Queens Storage Yard to Secaucus to provide service prior to any AM or PM rush hours. Remember that if New York City Transit wants to maintain existing headway between trains especially during rush hour, additional subway cars would need to be purchased. With an average cost of over $2 million per car, 100 additional cars would equal 10 trains. This would cost $200 million. A new storage yard could easily cost in the hundreds of millions. These costs are in addition to the basic new tunnel under the Hudson River, track, signal, power and substations. A new intermodal bus terminal would need to be constructed at Secaucus. This would be needed to accommodate hundreds of rush hour buses. Diverting many of these buses from the existing already overcrowded Manhattan Port Authority Bus Terminal could free up scarce space there. This could provide new capacity for service from other regions in the Metropolitan area. In addition, it might elevate the need to dead head several hundred buses to mid-day temporary storage facilities in New Jersey. A multistory parking garage to accommodate several thousand cars would also be needed. This would free up valuable space in the already overcrowded Lincoln Tunnel during rush hours. A new direct connection between Queens, Manhattan and New Jersey could assist thousands who are reverse commuters to employment centers along with sporting events such as New York Mets games, other Citi Field, US Open, Arthur Ashe Stadium along with Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and the Queens Zoo. Thousands of New Jersey residents would have a direct connection to Manhattan East Side. Metro-North commuters via Grand Central Terminal would have a new direct connection to New Jersey.
Extending the No. 7 subway line to Secaucus could easily cost $10 billion or more. At the end of the day no one could either find or commit any additional funding beyond a simple $300,000 planning feasibility study to make Bloomberg’s dream a reality.