New Yorkers have waited for their extended Second Avenue subway line for a century. It was initially proposed to
ease the congestion on the East side of Manhattan in 1919. 98 years on, New Year’s Day finally gave citizens the opportunity to ride the subway for the very first time. The idea was proposed during the roaring 20s, but the Great Depression derailed any progress that had been previously made. This downturn was followed by a series of wars, economic crisis’, political battles and diverted funds. It was believed by many that the subway would never be constructed. Over the course of the century, the Second Avenue subway became a butt of jokes to stress the ineffectiveness of American infrastructure. However, by the 1990s, overcrowding on the East side line had become insufferable so plans for the Second Avenue subway line were revived. In 2004, these plans were finally approved. The first phase would include three new stations that go from 72nd Street to 96th Street. The Metropolitan Transit Authority even gave a deadline of 2013, and a cost of $3.8 billion.
Four years later than originally planned, rail passengers can now expect a service far more impressive than the World War II technology that has been in operation on New York’s subways for decades. The up-to-date technology will ease congestion, improve delay times and breakdowns. But this isn’t the only development; promises have been made to build a second phase to 125th Street in Harlem, to the bottom of Manhattan. Transport officials are yet to announce a time frame for this.
Unlike its predictions, the subway costed a total of $4.4 billion and was not as ambitious as anticipated. Despite this, the new subway line is expected to transport 200,000 people every day. The project built an additional two miles of tunnel and three new subway stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th Street. "We need to show people that government works and we can still do big things," said New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had publicly pressured the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to complete the project by his revised deadline of January 1st. "This is New York and there is nothing we can't do when we put our mind to it. That's what we have to remember."
Many would argue that the rising costs were caused by the impressive stations which have been decorated with contemporary art in ceramic and mosaics. The subway showcases a range of artist’s work which were selected in 2009 which include Chuck Close, Vik Muniz, Sarah Sze and Jean Shin.
A second phase is supposed to bring the line up to 125th Street, serving the less economically advantaged neighborhood of East Harlem. Officials have said work on that phase could begin in 2019 or 2020, although cynics are doubting it will happen on time. Going forward Richard Barone, vice president of transportation for the Regional Plan Association said: "we have to figure out how to build the next phase cheaper and quicker. To spend $4.5 billion for three stations is too much.”
"It's so important because this shows that when you invest in public transit, you get results," said John Raskin, executive director of the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance. "I think the new subway line will make a marked difference in people's lives -- not just in the Upper East Side, it's for anyone who rides the Lexington Avenue line."
On Sunday, Second Avenue residents expressed excitement over their new transport options but also their anxiety over the continued gentrification in the region. Last year it was reported in the borough that the average apartment price reached $2 million.
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