Thursday, July 11, 2013 8:33:00 AM | by Matt Brown
New York's subway construction
A hidden world
These incredible photographs reveal the hidden world of construction deep below New York's Second Avenue, where work continues on a new $4.5 billion underground line. A subway line under Second Avenue has been in the New York planning pipeline since 1929, but work did not begin under Manhattan's Upper East Side until 2007.
Costs derail construction plans
Soaring costs during the Great Depression, America's entry into WWII and the Korean War each derailed construction plans.
8.5 miles of new tunnel
Construction workers are digging 8.5 miles of new tunnel for the project.
'A lot of mud and dirt'
Patrick Cashin, a staff photographer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York who has been documenting the project, said, "When I arrived on the scene in 2009, it was just a lot of mud and dirt, but as I kept going back, this hole kept getting deeper and deeper and soon it extended several blocks."
First new line since 1932
When it is completed in December 2016, it will be the first new subway line added to the city since 1932.
The T Line
When finished, the Second Avenue line will be called the T and will be a turquoise-colored route on subway maps.
A vast array of machinery stored underground working on New York's new commuter subway.
A big dig
Photographer Cashin said, "It just hits you how big, how much digging they had to do to get this cavern made. It’s just amazing."
Project to ease congestion
It is hoped that the project will decrease commuter congestion in east Manhattan.
A 4-phase project
The line is being built in phases; the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway will provide service from 96th Street to 63rd Street as an extension of the existing train line. The four-phase project extends through 2020 and will continue the line all the way to lower Manhattan.
Loud and dusty
"When the boring machine is on and cutting, it’s loud and extremely dusty," Cashin said. "I understand there’s about 800 workers spread out all over the project. Each are drilling, paving, moving rocks – everyone’s constantly in motion.”
The project has endured several accidents, including one worker needing to be pulled out of quicksand-like clay. The rescue took the fire department four hours to complete.
'A dangerous place to be'
"I think when you’re down there for all of 10 seconds, you know that this is a dangerous place to be,” Cashin said in an interview on the MTA's Flickr page.
Vast network of tracks
The New York City Subway, one of the world's oldest public-transit systems, comprises 842 miles of track.
$2 billion per mile
When the fourth phase is completed, the Second Avenue line will be the most expensive subway in the world, costing roughly $2 billion per mile. A tunnel worker performs a weld inside a future station.
Nearly 100 feet underground
Tunnels and stations will be up to approximately 98 feet below street level.
Work goes round the clock
A worker stands by the board that marks the three round-the-clock shifts.
3 construction methods
A deep-bore tunneling machine is burrowing through 90 percent of the planned route. The rest of the construction, mainly the 16 stations along the line will be built using the "cut and cover" method and drill and blast mining.
A train signal installed inside the tunnel.
A monster machine
The tunneling machine weighs 485 tons, is 450 feet long and uses a 22-foot-diameter cutter head which turns at about five rpm and packs almost 3 million pounds of force.
Boring through the rock
The rock under Manhattan, called Manhattan schist, was created about 470 million years ago during the formation of the supercontinent Pangaea. Fortunately for the project, it is much softer than the bedrock in nearby Queens and Brooklyn.
A tunnel worker wears a hard hat and goggles.
Progress measured in feet
The tunneling machine can drill through about 66 feet of solid rock in a day.
Second Avenue Subway's 72nd Street Station cavern and tunnels leading south as of Sept. 22, 2012.
An elevator carries workers to and from the street above.
An engineering feat
“This thing is definitely an engineering feat,” Cushin says. “These caverns are man-made — created from scratch. It feels like you’re in the center of the Earth but really we’re right underneath the busiest city in the world. It’s incredible.”
Tunnel workers, known as "sandhogs," spend much of their day nine stories below the streets of the "city that never sleeps."
200,000 riders a day
The T line is expected to serve approximately 200,000 riders a day.
According to a Congressional report, the Second Ave Subway project has created 16,00 jobs, generated $842 million in wages and produced $2.87 billion in economic activity.
On the job
A sandhog at work.
Rounding a curve
The tunnel near 64th Street as of Jan. 11, 2012.
Dangerous but well-paid work
Sandhogs are among the highest-earning laborers in the country, typically earning $45 an hour.
1.6 billion rides a year
The subway systems's 468 stations provide more than 1.6 billion rides a year.
The $4.5 billion project is mostly paid for with federal funds.
Boots on the ground
Workers' boots line a metal platform somewhere below the city.