Six Massive Transportation Projects in the NYC Region Move Forward

“MetroFocus: Transforming Transportation,” looks at the large-scale projects that will improve our overburdened transit systems. Premieres on July 24 at 10:30 p.m. on WLIW21; July 25 10:30 p.m. on NJTV; and July 26 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

The U.S. Census estimates that 19 million people live in the Metropolitan tri-state area. All those people travel at some point, whether it’s to work, school, daycare, a doctor’s office, the gym or a day trip and the roads, rails and bridges are relied upon by everyone, whether driving or taking public transportation. As the region’s population keeps growing, our transportation infrastructure needs replacing and updating and indeed, to be expanded.

We all know what that means: construction and traffic delays. And in New York, projects like these take longer and cost more than originally anticipated.

MetroFocus takes a look at some of the biggest transportation projects happening now in the metropolitan region.


The Alexander Hamilton Bridge Rehabilitation Project

The Alexander Hamilton Bridge rehabilitation will cause delays on the even more heavily traveled George Washington Bridge. Flickr/ Steve Guttman NYC

Construction on this massive rehab project, the largest single-contract construction project in the history of the New York state Department of Transportation, began in 2009.  The work is vast: the deck of the bridge will be completely replaced, the steel arch span and steel support beams will be strengthened and painted and the support piers and foundation will be replaced or repaired. Park areas around the bridge will be redesigned.

Its impact became more noticeable on the evening of July 13 last week, when one of the three eastbound lanes on the Cross Bronx Expressway at the bridge closed for repairs.  The lane will be closed for at least six months. This will affect not only Bronx-bound traffic, but is expected to cause some delays nearby, including on eastbound lanes of the George Washington Bridge.


Projected Cost: $409 million
Projected Completion Date : December 31, 2013

East Side Access

Workers excavate an area in Long Island City, Queens for the East Side Access project. Flickr/ NYMTACC

Since 2006, the MTA has been working on the massive East Side Access project, which will connect Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) tunnels in Queens to Grand Central Station, offering riders direct access to the east side of Manhattan for the first time. The project will ease congestion of both trains and people at the LIRR tracks in Penn Station, on Manhattan’s west side.  The East Side Access project was originally expected to finish in 2013;  the date was recently adjusted to 2019.

While commuters wait for the benefits of shorter rides and more space on trains, they can expect longer travel times and some overcrowding on certain train lines due to construction in Queens. Earlier this month the LIRR began canceling and combining three evening rush hour trains. The disrupted service will impact the Babylon, Long Beach and Montauk lines. These changes will be effective through mid-August.

Projected Cost: $8.24 billion
Projected Completion Date : 2019


The Helix Fix

The 74-year-old helix is undergoing extensive repairs and will be closed to traffic headed into Manhattan every night for a year. Photo courtesy of Bob Yodice.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is spending approximately $88 million dollars to repair one of the most crucial transportation links in the tri-state area — the 74-year-old helix, the massive New Jersey roadway that leads from Route 495 to the Lincoln Tunnel. Nicknamed the “Helix Fix,” the project will repave the road, put in new steel beams and upgrade the concrete median barrier with steel caps.

The project begins in August, with all work taking place overnight  — from 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. on most days — when traffic will be detoured to local roads like the South Marginal Highway in Weehawken, which runs parallel to Route 495. Work on the eastbound lanes to the city starts this August and is scheduled to go on until 2013. Work on the westbound lanes into New Jersey will start in 2013 and is expected to be finished in 2014.

Projected Cost: $88 million
Projected Completion Date : August 2014

Second Avenue Subway

Proposals to build a north-south subway line along Second Avenue date back to 1929. Photo courtesy of the MTA.

The only subway serving the entirety of the East Side of Manhattan are the 4, 5, 6 Lexington Avenue lines, but that wasn’t always the case. Also serving the area was the Second Avenue “El” (elevated train), until it was taken down in 1942, and the Third Avenue “El,” which was discontinued in 1956. With the high density of people living on the Upper East Side, the need for an additional subway line feels dire, especially during workday rush hour time. Indeed, plans for a new subway line were discussed as far back as 1929, according to the MTA.

The first of four phases of the new Second Avenue line broke ground in 2007 and will reroute and extend the Q line to also serve 63rd to 96th streets along Second Avenue. Eventually, a new T subway line will run from 125th Street in Harlem to Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan.

The Second Avenue Subway project has seen its fair share of delays and has greatly affected the area surrounding its construction. An entire blog (Second Ave. Sagas) was founded to cover the issues surrounding the massive project. Businesses have lost customers, available storefronts have remained empty or have lowered their rent, air quality concerns have been raised and residents have complained of constant construction noise, even in the nighttime hours. A small plus: unlike virtually everywhere else in Manhattan, rents are going down.

Projected Cost (Phase I): $4.4 billion
Projected Completion Date (phase 1): The first phase, from 63rd to 96th streets, is expected to be completed by December, 2016.


The Number 7 Line Extension

The MTA is extending the number 7 train to 34th Street and 11th Avenue. Photo courtesy of the MTA.

The extension of the number 7 subway line that runs from Flushing-Main Street in Queens to Times Square-42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan has been drastically cut back from its original plan. The extension, developed in conjunction with the city’s plan to rezone and re-develop Hudson Yards, an area on the far west side of Manhattan, is now scheduled to only advance the train one stop, from Times Square-42nd Street  to a new terminus at 34th Street and 11th Avenue.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted the extension to not only go one stop further west in Manhattan, to 41st Street and 10th Avenue, but also hoped it could go all the way to Secaucus, New Jersey, via a tunnel under the Hudson River. While the second Manhattan stop is possible and dependent on funding, MTA Commissioner Joe Lhota said the extension to New Jersey was highly unlikely.

Bloomberg proposed the extension, which would have been the first time an MTA subway line crossed out of New York City, in 2010. After Gov. Chris Christie cancelled the ARC (Access the Region’s Core) tunnel project, which would have increased the number of Hudson River tunnels for New Jersey Transit, thus alleviating high crowding on those trains, Bloomberg concluded the same research could be used to devise a strategy for the 7 extension.

Projected Cost: $2.1 billion
Projected Completion Date: mid-2014


Tappan Zee Bridge

The Tappan Zee bridge will be completely replaced in the coming years. Flickr/ duluoz cats

The Tappan Zee Bridge opened in 1955 and is a crucial link between Westchester and Rockland counties, on the east and west sides of the Hudson, respectively. It was designed to carry 100,000 vehicles a day but now carries 138,000 and has no shoulders or emergency lanes. Replacing the bridge, not repairing it,  is a priority of the Cuomo Administration, and the federal government had pledged to help, too. In 2011, the Obama Administration included the bridge on a list of 14 projects it wanted to see expedited.

But just how to get it done is still under debate.

Officials have estimated that with the price tag will come steep tolls on the bridge, and transportation advocates, mayors and county executives from the surrounding areas are all concerned about the lack of a public transit option in the plans for the new bridge.

Governor Andrew Cuomo told The New York Times that the bridge would be built in a way that would allow for mass transit to be added at a later date, and that including it now would double the cost of the bridge’s construction.

And what about the first Tappan Zee? Many people, even, perhaps, Gov. Cuomo, would like to see it turned into a landscaped pedestrian walkway.

Projected Cost: $5.2 billion
Projected Completion Date: Unknown


Correction: July 24, 2012. An earlier post incorrectly stated that phase one of the Second Avenue line would introduce the new T line between 63rd and 96th streets. Phase one will allow the extension of the Q line along that route.

“MetroFocus: Transforming Transportation” premieres on Tuesday, July 24 at 10:30 p.m. on WLIW21; Wednesday, July 25 at 10:30 p.m. on NJTV; and Thursday, July 26 at 8:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.


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