What’s Missing From the No. 7 Line Extension

Mayor Michael Bloomberg after taking the first ride on the extension of the 7 Subway line. (Photo: MTA / Patrick Cashin)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg after taking the first ride on the 7 train extension. (Photo: MTA / Patrick Cashin)

Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ceremonial ride on the No. 7 train last Friday to the line’s future stop at 34th Street and 11th Avenue was premature. The No. 7 line doesn’t add up until $500 million more is found to build the promised intermediate station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street. This station was deleted from the original scope of work in 2007 as a cost-saving measure to complete the No. 7 line extension within the available project budget, which has already ballooned from $2.1 billion to $2.4 billion. In addition, the anticipated first day of revenue service slipped six months from December 2013 to a new forecasted date of June 2014.

Mayor Bloomberg was also incorrect when he referenced this subway extension as the first since 1950. On Nov. 26, 1967, the Chrystie Street connection was opened, linking the BMT line (today’s B and D lines) via the Manhattan Bridge to the IND Sixth Avenue line. This provided new operational and service options benefiting several hundred-thousand Brooklyn residents.

On Dec. 11, 1988, the Archer Avenue subway line was opened at a cost of $440 million. Thanks to this investment, the J, Z and E lines provide direct service to both the Long Island Rail Road Jamaica Station and a new terminus at Jamaica Center at Archer Avenue and Parsons Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. There are additional new stations, including Jamaica/Van Wyck and Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue.

On Dec. 16, 2001, the 63rd Street Tunnel between Queens and Manhattan was opened at a cost of $650 million. This included new stations at 21st Street Queensbridge, Roosevelt Island and Lexington Avenue/63rd Street. Thanks to this investment, the Queens Boulevard F line continues to provide direct service to the Avenue of the Americas corridor in Manhattan without having to use the older 53rd Street tunnel between Queens and Manhattan. This affords additional service options for riders  traveling between Queens to Manhattan.

Mayor Bloomberg’s dream for extending the No. 7 subway to New Jersey never got beyond a basic planning feasibility study. This study, released several years ago by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, looked into the feasibility of extending the 7 to New Jersey Transit’s Secaucus Junction Station by Exit 15X on the New Jersey Turnpike. A planning feasibility study is just what it says: a study. There were no environmental documents or the preliminary design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any estimated actual costs to complete this proposed project.

To extend the No. 7 subway one stop—or 11 blocks—from the existing Times Square Station at 42nd Street Station to the new Javits Convention Center will cost the Metropolitan Transportation Authority $2.4 billion provided primarily by the City of New York. No one really knows how many billions more would be required to build a new tunnel under the Hudson River with billions more needed for work on both the Manhattan and New Jersey sides of the river. 

Remember that the existing Flushing, Queens, subway yard is already operating at capacity. This facility, built adjacent to wetlands, has little opportunity for expansion. A second storage yard might have to be built at a site in New Jersey, preferably as close as possible to any new station adjacent to the existing New Jersey Transit Secaucus Transfer Station. It would be difficult to deadhead all the equipment from the current Queen Storage Yard to Secaucus to provide service prior to any a.m. or p.m. rush hours. Remember that if New York City Transit wants to maintain existing headway between trains, especially during rush hour, additional subway cars would need to be purchased. With an average cost of more than $2 million per car, 100 additional cars would equal 10 trains. This would cost $200 million. A new storage yard could easily cost in the hundreds of millions.

These costs are in addition to the new tunnel under the Hudson River, track, signal, power and substations. A new intermodal bus terminal would need to be constructed at Secaucus. This would be needed to accommodate hundreds of rush hour buses. Diverting many of these buses from the existing already overcrowded Manhattan Port Authority Bus Terminal could free up scarce space there, providing new capacity for service from other regions in the Metropolitan area.

In addition, there’s the need to deadhead several hundred buses to midday temporary storage facilities in New Jersey. A multistory parking garage to accommodate several thousand cars would also be needed. This would free up valuable space in the already overcrowded Lincoln Tunnel during rush hours. A new direct connection could assist thousands of reverse commuters, thousands of New Jersey residents would have a direct connection to Manhattan’s East Side, and Queens Metro North commuters would have a new direct connection to New Jersey.

Extending the No. 7 subway line to Secaucus could easily cost $10 billion or more. Despite its great value to the area’s commuters, it’s hard to picture it becoming a reality. At the end of the day, no one could find any additional funding beyond a simple $300,000 planning feasibility study to make Mayor Bloomberg’s dream a reality.

Larry Penner writes regularly for The Queens Courier.