NEW YORK - It’s been an on-again, off-again, “believe it when you see it” project since the Jazz Age. Construction started 45 years ago.
But New Yorkers’ long wait to take a subway under Manhattan’s far Upper East Side ends Sunday, when a stretch of the new Second Avenue line opens to the public.
A ceremonial first ride took place Saturday night for an invitation-only crowd of dignitaries, about 90 minutes before the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square.
New Yorkers ride at noon
Everyday New Yorkers get their first chance to ride at noon on New Year’s Day, an opening date Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a priority in recent weeks.
“You could say, ‘You were late. It started a hundred years ago,’” Cuomo said Friday at a tour of one of the new stations. But, he added, “we wanted to make a new and different statement as we start this new year.”
That statement, he said, was: “Yes, we can do it. This is New York.”
The nearly 2-mile segment adds stations along Second Avenue at 96th, 86th and 72nd streets and a new connection to an existing subway line at 63rd Street.
Seen as crucial to alleviating congestion in the nation’s biggest subway system, it is on a line expected to carry about 200,000 riders a day. The entire system transports about 5.6 million riders on an average weekday.
Conceived in 1929
The city’s transportation board first envisioned a Second Avenue subway in 1929, but the stock market crash and the Great Depression derailed the plan.
Ground was broken in 1972, but a fiscal crisis in the city slammed the brakes on the project again. The project finally got into high gear when major tunneling work began in 2007.
The $4.4 billion section opening Sunday was initially supposed to be completed in 2013. Delays stemmed partly from concerns about construction noise.
Next, the line is slated to expand north into East Harlem. No date has been set for starting that phase of construction.