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New York Magazine Touts Second Avenue Subway

It has been called the world's most famous un-built subway. If the cover story in this week's New York magazine is right, construction on the Second Avenue Subway could be underway by early next year.

First conceived in 1925, the "SAS" has suffered one delay after another. The MTA actually broke ground in 1972 and completed three short tunnel sections, but the city's near-bankruptcy stalled the project. Now, it seems, the stars are finally in alignment. Peter Kalikow, the MTA's politically well-connected chairman, has lined up support in Albany and in Washington, and most of the funds to build the first segment have already been earmarked, or will be shortly.

The need for the SAS is obvious. Of Manhattan's five major north-south trunk lines, only the Lexington Avenue line is on the East side. That line is ridiculously over-crowded, a problem that will only become worse after the MTA completes East Side Access, a project that will bring Long Island Railroad trains into Grand Central Station. Some bristle at the cost (now estimated at $17 billion), but New York hasn't expanded its subway system in any significant way since 1940. Unless you believe in standing still, the SAS is the next logical step.

I do have my concerns about the design. As now conceived, the SAS is two tracks between 125th St and Hanover Square. I wonder if this decision is short-sighted, as all of the other major north-south trunk lines in Manhattan are four tracks. I am also concerned about the spacing between the stations. The line starts out promising enough, with stations planned at 125th, 116th, 106th, 96th and 86th. But after that, the stations are at 72nd, 57th, and 42nd Streets, gaps of 14, 15, and 15 blocks respectively. Below 42nd Street, the gaps between stations are once again more reasonable, aside from the roughly 14 blocks between 14th St and Houston.

Nothwithstanding my reservations, the SAS is a tremendous step forward for the New York City subway system.

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