New York City’s biggest expansion of the subway system in 50 years, Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway opened for service on January 1, 2017. It extended the Q line from 63 St to 96 St, with additional stations at 72 St and 86 St. This project is the first phase of a long-term plan to extend the line up to 125 St (Phase 2), and down to Lower Manhattan (Phases 3 and 4).
Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway was constructed between the Lexington Avenue–63rd Street station on the 63rd Street Lines and an existing tunnel segment between 99th Street and 105th Street, with a terminal station at 96th Street. The line was originally proposed in 1920 as part of a massive expansion of what would become the Independent Subway System (IND). The Great Depression crushed the original proposal, and lack of funds scuttled numerous revivals throughout the 20th century. Meanwhile, the elevated lines along Second Avenue and Third Avenue, which the Second Avenue Line was intended to replace, were respectively demolished in 1942 and 1955, leaving the Lexington Avenue Subway as the only rapid transit line on much of Manhattan’s east side. By the time the Second Avenue Line was built, the Lexington Avenue Line was by far the busiest subway line in the United States, with an estimated 1.3 million daily riders in 2015.
Construction on the Second Avenue Line initially began in 1972 as part of the Program for Action, but was halted in 1975 because of the city’s fiscal crisis, with only a few short segments of tunnels having been completed. Meanwhile, construction of the 63rd Street Lines, which would connect the Second Avenue Line and the IND Queens Boulevard Line to the BMT Broadway Line and the IND Sixth Avenue Line, began in 1969. The first segment of the 63rd Street Lines, which opened on October 29, 1989, included provisions for future connections to the Second Avenue Line.
Work on the line restarted in 2007 following the development of a financially secure construction plan. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) awarded a tunneling contract for the first phase of the project to the consortium of Schiavone/Shea/Skanska (S3) on March 20, 2007. This followed preliminary engineering and a final tunnel design completed by a joint venture between AECOM and Arup.
Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway delivers:
- Service to nearly 200,000 riders a day on the Upper East Side, the densest neighborhood in New York City
- Reduced morning overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue line by an average of 40%
- Shorter travel times—by up to 10 minutes—for riders on the far East Side and those traveling between the Upper East Side to the West Side of Manhattan, and easier access to Brooklyn and Queens