Yesterday the MTA's President of Capital Construction, Michael Horodniceanu, led members of the press 160 feet below the streets of Manhattan for a tour of portions of the Second Avenue Subway. Visible in the 96th Street station were the first rails delivered for the project, which happened to arrive earlier in the day. Photos can't convey the awe you feel when you step out of an elevator into the 65-foot-tall cavern that will become the 86th Street station, but we'll try anyway.


According to Horodniceanu, the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway will cost an estimated $4.45 billion dollars and is slated to open in December of 2016.

 The MTA has said that from the day it opens, the line will have a daily ridership of 200,000, alleviating congestion on the 4, 5, and 6 trains. Horodniceanu said the 4/5/6 has a daily ridership greater than Chicago and Boston's subways combined.



When the first phase opens, there will be four stations of Q train service, bringing the line from the existing station at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue to the new station at 72nd Street and 2nd Avenue, and up to new stations at 86th Street and 96th Street.



Currently, the Q train goes to Queens. It has not been decided if there will be more N trains sent to Astoria to make up for a reduction in Q train service or if the Q train will become a split line. 

When the full Second Avenue Subway line opens—and there is no official timetable for it—there will be a line running from 125th Street to Hanover Square known as the T train.



Noise as well as sidewalk and street congestion have been a major issue for Upper East Side residents and business owners. Horodniceanu said that the MTA has tried to mitigate the problems, but emphasized that this is the first time a project like this has ever been attempted in New York City that actually took into account residents' quality of life.



When previous lines were built, there were also not nearly as many people living around them. The Upper East Side now has a population density of about 100,000 people per square mile. 



Horodniceanu said that coming up with creative solutions to these challenges was his favorite part of the job. "That's when the fun begins. That's when you have to scratch your head," he said.



The Second Avenue Subway will have no subway grates. It will employ a dedicated ventilation system which is, in part, necessitated by how deep it is. Horodniceanu said that's good news for pedestrians in high heels.



While nothing surprising was found during excavation, portions of the project had unstable rock, which was then shored up by freezing it to negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Workers also found remnants of both the hops dumped by the old breweries of the UES, and the supports for the old elevated train.



Tunnel boring machines usually get nicknames. The one used for the Second Avenue Subway was named Adi. That’s Horodniceanu’s granddaughter’s name, which is Hebrew for “jewel.”



And finally, something for trivia night: It's estimated that 55,000 elephants could fit in the 72nd Street station.

Evan Bindelglass is a journalist, blogger, history buff, foodie, and cinephile living just across the Hudson River in Bergen County, N.J.