"These are vital projects, and they'll reinforce the infrastructure of the city," says Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University. "It's not just about people going to work; the New York subway and rail systems are busy 24 hours a day, taking people shopping, to theaters, to clubs."
The city's 468 subway stations register more than 1.6 billion rides a year. The system is used by more than 5 million daily riders. The Metro in Washington, D.C., has about 800,000, and San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit has about 400,000.
The three mammoth projects require creative solutions and the latest technology.
When crews prepared to drill the giant new cavity under Second Avenue, they first had to freeze the ground to about minus 20 degrees so as not to destabilize the buildings above as the boring machine cut through. For that, aluminum tubes were inserted from the street and a special chemical solution was poured into the ground and cooled by a refrigeration plant.
The Second Avenue tunnels hold a space-age surprise: The ceilings are coated with a material once used to fireproof the space shuttle.
The new line has another major improvement. Instead of ventilation grates that allow rainwater to pour in, the new stations will be aired using enclosed cooling plants. When Superstorm Sandy hit the city last October, floodwaters washing over the East Side did not penetrate subway construction sites.
"We're using the best technology available today, but this is really people-intensive work," says Horodniceanu, who supervises a team of thousands of workers on any given day.
"I feel I have the most exciting job in the world," he says. "It's an incredible feeling to be able to build a legacy project. I hope that one day, my grandchildren will be able to say their granddad built this!"
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