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Thread: Despite Recession, 8 Big Projects Lumber On

  1. #1

    Default Despite Recession, 8 Big Projects Lumber On

    March 17, 2009, 12:15 pm

    Despite Recession, 8 Big Projects Lumber On

    By Sewell Chan

    Patrick Cashin/New York Transit Museum
    Workers on the extension of the No. 7 line, in an August 2008 photograph that is part of “The Future Beneath Us,” an exhibition about eight major city infrastructure projects under way.

    Despite the recession, the building continues.

    That is the message of a new exhibition, “The Future Beneath Us,” at the Science, Industry and Business Library at the New York Public Library and at the Grand Central Terminal gallery annex of the New York Transit Museum.

    The exhibition, which opened on Feb. 17 and is on view through July 5, takes a decidedly — some might say undeservedly — optimistic view of things.

    To be sure, New York is indeed building on a gargantuan scale, even if new residential and commercial construction has mostly come to a halt. It might even be true, as the introduction to the show asserts, that “the eight projects in this exhibit comprise New York’s greatest infrastructure advancements in generations.”

    The four projects featured in the Transit Museum all relate to efforts underway by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is in the throes of its own fiscal crisis. While the authority says its major capital projects are largely assured, the prospect of looming deficits hangs over any discussion of mass transit’s future in the region.

    And the projects will take years to complete. East Side Access, the project to link the Long Island Rail Road’s Main and Port Washington lines to a new terminal beneath Grand Central Terminal, is now projected to be completed by 2015, with a price tag of $15.2 billion.

    Also to be completed by 2015 is the first of four phases of the long-planned Second Avenue Subway, which will eventually extend to Lower Manhattan from Harlem. The first phase, at a cost of well over $300 million, includes tunnels from 105th Street and Second Avenue to 63rd Street and Third Avenue, and new stations at 96th, 86th and 72nd Streets.

    A third big M.T.A. project, the Fulton Street Transit Center, has had a troubled history. The project, a block from the World Trade Center site, was originally financed by the federal government with $750 million designated for rebuilding Lower Manhattan after 9/11. But costs kept rising, and last January the authority said that while work would continue on the underground portions of the project, it could no longer afford to move ahead with the above-ground structure. Now the M.T.A. hopes to use $497 million in federal stimulus money to complete the project. The date is uncertain.

    Patrick Cashin/New York Transit Museum
    Workers on the extension of the No. 7 line, in August 2008.

    The final M.T.A. project — the westward extension of the No. 7 line to the so-called Hudson Yards area — arose from the Bloomberg administration’s failed efforts to build a football stadium to lure the 2012 Olympics to New York. Late last year, officials acted to keep the project within its $2.1 billion budget, by eliminating plans for one of two stops along the 1.1-mile extension from the current tunneling contract. The stop, at 41st Street and 10th Avenue, would sit between Times Square and the new terminus of the No. 7 line, at 34th Street and 11th Avenue. The city has been urged to restore the stop.

    The four projects featured at the Science, Industry and Business Library are no less complex, and several are fraught with the same financial questions as the M.T.A. projects.

    One is the Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx, which will provide up to 290 gallons a day of filtered water — up to 30 percent of the city’s water needs — from the Croton watershed in Westchester and Putnam Counties. (Ninety percent of the city’s water supply, from three watersheds over 2,000 square miles, is unfiltered.)

    “The beauty of the filtration plant is that when it is completed, you won’t see it,” the wall text explains (without noting the extensive community negotiations that had to occur before the plans for the filtration plant could go through). “It is a piece of modern underground infrastructure.

    The landscape above it—the largest, continuous, intensive green roof in North America—will be returned to its prior use as a golf course and driving range and will also serve as a model for stormwater and groundwater reuse.”

    New York Public Library
    A historical photograph of the construction of the city’s Water Tunnel No. 2, with a view into into the access drift, showing parts of the steel interlining in place after riveting.

    Another water-related project is City Water Tunnel No. 3, which is taking shape 800 feet below ground and will eventually extend 60 miles. Started in 1970, the tunnel’s first, 13-mile segment went into service in 1998, and its 5.5-mile second segment in Brooklyn, which connects to a five-mile section in Queens, was completed in 2001. Tunneling on the Manhattan section of the second segment was finished in 2006 and the section is to be in use by 2013. The tunnel’s main purpose is to allow the shutdown, inspection and repair of its predecessors, Tunnels Nos. 1 (1917) and 2 (1936), which have been in continuous use since they opened.

    Another project in the library’s part of the exhibition is the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel (also known as Access to the Region’s Core), which would improve the commutes of New Jersey Transit riders traveling to Pennsylvania Station. The project would add two new tracks, doubling the existing track capacity, and other improvements.

    Planning began in 1993, and preliminary engineering began in 2006.

    Construction is to begin this year, with the added train capacity in effect by 2017. The cost is estimated at $8.7 billion, to be paid for by the federal government, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the State of New Jersey.

    New York Public Library
    An exterior rendering of the planned World Trade Center transit hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava.

    The final project in the exhibition is World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which, like other projects, has been repeatedly pushed forward in schedule. First announced in 2004, the hub, which is to be principally used by PATH trains, was to open in 2009. Ground was broken in 2005. Now the cost is estimated at $3.2 billion (drawn from federal and Port Authority funds), 50 percent higher than the original budget, and the project could take as long as 2014.

    The exhibition takes a cheery tone in describing the project, designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava:
    The 800,000 square foot project will be the third largest transportation hub in New York City — a Grand Central Station for Lower Manhattan — serving users of subway, PATH, and ferry lines from two states and all five boroughs.
    Although the show mostly glosses over the problems that have confronted several of the eight projects, it does offer some historical perspective on why big, ambitious building projects have often encountered resistance:
    These infrastructure projects evoke controversy. Major undertakings generally do. In 1832, New York’s first substantial underground infrastructure, the Croton Aqueduct, was marked by lawsuits, engineering disputes, public protest, and predictions of failure and financial ruin. Efforts to create New York’s first subway began three years after the Civil War in 1868; New Yorkers took their first subway ride in 1904.

    These infrastructure projects are expensive. When New York dug its first public wells 330 years ago, residents paid for them by direct assessment or, if they balked, by forced sale of their possessions. New York’s first subways were built by private companies. Financing and construction of today’s urban infrastructure is far more complex. Thickets of government regulation that make projects safe and secure and protect historic and environmental resources also raise costs and extend deadlines.

    These infrastructure projects differ from how they were first conceived, some decades ago. Some have changed even during the months of planning for this exhibit. No matter. As the American humorist O. Henry said of New York a century ago, “It’ll be a great place if they ever finish it.”

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...cts-lumber-on/

    Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

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    will provide up to 290 gallons a day of filtered water — up to 30 percent of the city’s water needs
    This has to be a typo- no?!
    I have an aquarium with more filtered water than that!

  3. #3

    Default

    Sloppy report. Quite a few errors.

    Don't know where this number came from:
    The first phase, at a cost of well over $300 million, includes tunnels from 105th Street and Second Avenue to 63rd Street and Third Avenue, and new stations at 96th, 86th and 72nd Streets.

  4. #4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by scumonkey View Post
    This has to be a typo- no?!
    I have an aquarium with more filtered water than that!

    I checked back on the article. It says 290 million gallons a day.

    I don't know if it was my error or a typo that has been corrected. At least it makes more sense now.

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