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The IND Queens Boulevard Line, sometimes abbreviated as QBL is a line of the B Division of the New York City Subway in Manhattan and Queens, New York City, United States. The line, which is underground throughout its entire route, provides crosstown service across Manhattan under 53rd Street and east through Queens to Jamaica. The two-track section in Manhattan and Long Island City, Queens, is also known as the IND 53rd Street Line.

RouteEdit

The IND Queens Boulevard Line begins with a large storage yard consisting of two levels with four tracks each south of 185th Street and Hillside Avenue. Once the tracks from the lower level merge with the tracks on the upper level, there is the first station Jamaica–179th Street (F Y trains), and the line continues as a four-track subway under Hillside Avenue. Just after curving north under the Van Wyck Expressway, a flying junction joins the two-track Archer Avenue Line (E train) to the local and express tracks. Soon after, the line turns west under Queens Boulevard

East of Kew Gardens–Union Turnpike, another flying junction ties the eastward tracks to Jamaica Yard. The other side of the wye curves west to become a lower level of the subway just west of Kew Gardens–Union Turnpike. After passing through 75th Avenue, those tracks join the local and express tracks at another flying junction. At Forest Hills–71st Avenue, the M R trains begin their westward routes. West of here, the line (now carrying the E F M R Y trains) runs under Queens Boulevard until it turns north onto Broadway after Grand Avenue–Newtown. Near Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue, an abandoned trackless tunnel for the IND Second System branches off into an unused upper part of the station which is used for storage. At the intersection of Broadway and Northern Boulevard, west of the line's Northern Boulevard station, the express tracks turn west under Northern Boulevard. The local tracks take a longer route, remaining under Broadway, then turning south onto Steinway Street and west again onto Northern Boulevard, where they rejoin the express tracks. This is only one of two areas in the subway where the express tracks diverge from the local tracks (the other being the IND Culver Line between Seventh Avenue and Church Avenue.) As the line leaves 36th Street, the two-track IND 63rd Street Line (F Y trains) splits from both sets of tracks at a flying junction, running to Manhattan under 41st Avenue. The Queens Boulevard Line continues under Northern Boulevard to Queens Plaza (E M R trains) before line splitting into three parts at another flying junction. The express tracks (E M trains) continue towards Manhattan under 44th Drive, while the local tracks split two ways, with the 60th Street Tunnel Connection (R train) turning northwest and the IND Crosstown Line (no regular service) remaining under Jackson Avenue (Northern Boulevard south of Queens Plaza). From this point on, the Queens Boulevard Line has only two tracks. The line continues west through the 53rd Street Tunnel under the East River into Manhattan. After Lexington Avenue–53rd Street, the westbound tracks rise above the eastbound tracks. A flying junction after Fifth Avenue/53rd Street, ties the westbound tracks into the southbound local tracks of the IND Sixth Avenue Line, which begin here as a merge of these connection tracks and the IND 63rd Street Line. At that junction, the Sixth Avenue express tracks turn west under 53rd Street, just to the south of the Queens Boulevard Line. The two lines share platforms at Seventh Avenue, but no connecting tracks are present. Then the Queens Boulevard Line turns south below the IND Eighth Avenue Line with separate lower-level platforms at 50th Street. Then the tracks split to join the local and express tracks of the Eighth Avenue Line north of 42nd Street–Port Authority Bus Terminal. At that station, a special lower platform formerly served a single southbound track from the Queens Boulevard Line, merging with both southbound tracks of the Eighth Avenue Line south of the station; the long-disused platform was demolished in June 2013 to make way for the extension of the IRT Flushing Line.

Services Edit

  Time period[1] Section of line[1]
Weekdays Weekends Late nights
E
  • express (south of Briarwood)
  • express (south of Forest Hills–71st Avenue)
    local (between Forest Hills–71st Avenue and Briarwood)
  • local (south of Briarwood)
south of Briarwood
F
  • express (south of Forest Hills–71st Avenue)
    local (north of Forest Hills–71st Avenue)
north of 36th Street
M
  • local (south of Forest Hills–71st Avenue)
no service between Fifth Avenue/53rd Street and Forest Hills–71st Avenue (weekdays)
R
  • local (south of Forest Hills–71st Avenue)
no service between Queens Plaza and Forest Hills–71st Avenue (all except late nights)
Y
  • express (entire line)
no service north of 36th Street

During daytime hours, the portion of the line between 36th Street and Forest Hills–71st Avenue is served by five services: the E, F, M, R, and Y. The M operates via Sixth Avenue and 53rd Street to Queens Plaza before making local stops to Forest Hills–71st Avenue on weekdays. The R enters Queens Boulevard from the Broadway Line and the 60th Street Tunnel before making local stops to Forest Hills–71st Avenue at all times except late nights. The F and Y trains join the IND Queens Boulevard Line from the 63rd Street Line, with the F running express to Forest Hills–71st Avenue before making local stops to Jamaica–179th Street and the Y making all express stops to Jamaica-179th Street. The F runs at all times while the Y runs weekdays only. The E train runs from the Eighth Avenue Line and 53rd Street to Queens Boulevard before making express stops along the line (except evenings and weekends when it makes all stops east of Forest Hills–71st Avenue and during late night hours when it runs local on the entire line) to the Archer Avenue Line east of Briarwood.

The entire line is patrolled by NYPD Transit Bureau District 20, headquartered at Briarwood.

HistoryEdit

ConstructionEdit

The Queens Boulevard Line, also referred to as the Long Island City−Jamaica Line, Fifty-third Street−Jamaica Line, and Queens Boulevard−Jamaica Line prior to opening, was one of the original lines of the city-owned Independent Subway System (IND), planned to stretch between the IND Eighth Avenue Line in Manhattan and 178th Street and Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, Queens.

As originally proposed in 1925, the line's junction with the IND Crosstown Line in Long Island City would have been a T-junction, allowing trains from Manhattan to travel south to Brooklyn via the Crosstown line. A map from June of that year shows a proposed alternate routing for the Queens Boulevard Line, that would have had the line turn via Kew Gardens Road after the Union Turnpike station instead of continuing via Queens Boulevard. After proceeding via Kew Gardens Road the line would have turned via Hillside Avenue. The map also shows a two-track line continuing from the Van Wyck Blvd station to 94th Avenue via Van Wyck Blvd (today's Van Wyck Expressway). During construction only bellmouths were built for the line, however they were eventually used for the IND Archer Avenue Line. As documented by the map, the Queens Boulevard Line, as originally planned, would have had the express trains go via a more direct route, via Broadway and Queens Boulevard, while the local trains would take a less direct route hitting larger population centers. There were to be two such instances. However, only one was actually built. The first one, the one that was not built, would have gone through Winfield, west of the existing Elmhurst Avenue station, and the local tracks would have diverged, continuing via Queens Broadway before turning onto 69th Street (Fisk Avenue), rejoining the express tracks at Broadway in Woodside. The second instance, the one that was built, was planned to have the local tracks continue via Broadway after the 65th Street station, and then it would turn south via Steinway Street before rejoining the express tracks at the 36th Street station. The express tracks here would take the more direct route, via Northern Boulevard.

On February 26, 1927, the New York City Board of Estimate awarded and approved a $10,481,550 to the Patrick McGovern Company. Ground was broken at Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive in Long Island City on April 2, 1927. The first contract for work entirely within Queens was given to the Atwell-Gustin-Morris Company by the New York City Board of Transportation on December 14, 1927. The contract covered the section of the line under Jackson Avenue between the junction with the under-construction Crosstown Line near Queen Street and 44th Drive. The section between Arch Street and Steinway Avenue was awarded to the W.G.T. Construction Company, which was also required to move the pillars for the IRT Flushing Line to the sides of the street. Triest Construction Company was awarded the next segment, which was between Queen Street and the intersection of Northern Boulevard and 37th Street. The following section was awarded to J.F. Cogan Company, which was required to build the section between the intersection of Steinway Street and Broadway and the intersection of 53rd Street and Northern Boulevard. The remainder of the line was called Route 108, and it was divided into six sections. The first section, between 53rd Street and Pettit Place via Broadway went to Atwell-Gustin-Morris Company, while the section between along Broadway and Queens Boulevard from Pettit Place and 55th Avenue went to George H. Flynn Company. The sections between 55th Avenue and 64th Road and from 64th Road to 71st Road went to Arthur A. Johnson. The final two sections were from 71st Road to Union Turnpike, and from 137th Street to Hillside Avenue.

The two tubes of the 53rd Street Tunnel under the East River began construction in spring 1927, and were fully excavated between Queens and Manhattan in January 1929, with a ventilation shaft built on Welfare Island (today's Roosevelt Island). On October 4, 1928, the Board of Estimate approved the construction of the Queens Boulevard Line. During the line's construction, several intersections of Queens Boulevard with major roads were grade separated, in a similar manner to Grand Concourse in the Bronx during the building of the IND Concourse Line around that same time. At adjacent intersections with Woodhaven Boulevard and Horace Harding Boulevard (now the Long Island Expressway) in Elmhurst, Queens Boulevard's main road was depressed into underpasses. In Kew Gardens, Union Turnpike and the Interboro Parkway (now the Jackie Robinson Parkway) were depressed below Queens Boulevard at the level of the Union Turnpike station's mezzanine.

The subway from Long Island City to Roosevelt Avenue and 74th Street was completed by April 1932.

During the 1920s and 1930s, in conjunction with the subway construction project, Queens Boulevard was widened with up to twelve lanes in some places, and a right-of-way of 200 feet.

Because the construction of the Queens Boulevard Line utilized the cut-and-cover tunneling method, Queens Boulevard had to be torn up and in order to allow pedestrians to cross, temporary bridges were built over the trenches. Like other IND lines, many stations' mezzanines stretched the full length and width of their stations, and are now considered to be overbuilt.

Building boom and the growth of communities Edit

The construction of the Queens Boulevard subway line offered the possibility of quick commutes to the central business district in Midtown Manhattan. In the late 1920s, speculators, upon learning the route of the proposed line, quickly bought up property on and around Queens Boulevard, and real estate prices soared, and older buildings were demolished in order to make way for new development. In order to allow for the speculators to build fifteen-story apartment buildings, several blocks were rezoned. They built apartment building in order to accommodate the influx of residents from Midtown Manhattan that would desire a quick and cheap commute to their jobs. Since the new line had express tracks, communities built around express stations, such as in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens became more desirable to live. With the introduction of the subway into the community of Forest Hills, Queens Borough President George Harvey predicted that Queens Boulevard would become the "Park Avenue of Queens". With the introduction of the subway, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens were transformed from quiet residential communities of one-family houses to active population centers. Following the line's completion, there was an increase in the property values of buildings around Queens Boulevard. For example, a property along Queens Boulevard that would have sold for $1,200 in 1925, would have sold for $10,000 in 1930. The population of Forest Hills in 1930 was 18,000, having increased to 100,000 in 1965. The construction boom was not limited to express stations, with fifteen-story apartment buildings built by Cord Meyer, an eighty-family apartment house built by the Rego Park Construction Corporation, and 300 one-family homes built along Woodhaven Boulevard by Pherbus Kaplan, all surrounding the 63rd Drive local station. These development companies all sought out to continue to increase the value of their properties in anticipation of the opening of the subway. Queens Boulevard, prior to the construction of the subway was just a route to allow people to get to Jamaica, running through farmlands. Since the construction of the line, the area of the thoroughfare that stretches from Rego Park to Kew Gardens has been home to apartment buildings, and a thriving business district that the Chamber of Commerce calls the "Golden Area". In Elmhurst, the destruction of almost all of the century-old buildings in the heart of the village were destroyed for the construction of the subway. Land was taken on the west side of the Broadway to avoid the demolition of the Saint James Episcopal Church and the Reformed Church. Many nineteenth century residences and the Wandowenock Fire Company buildings had to be torn down. To allow the subway line to curve into Queens Boulevard from Broadway, the northeast corner of the two streets was removed, in addition to some stores and an old Presbyterian chapel. New buildings were built behind a new curb line once the subway was completed, bringing a new face to Elmhurst. The introduction of the subway stimulated local growth in Elmhurst. Commercial buildings and apartment houses replaced existing structures.

Opening and expansionEdit

The first section of the line, west from Roosevelt Avenue to 50th Street, opened on August 19, 1933. E trains ran local to Hudson Terminal (today's World Trade Center) in Manhattan, while the GG (predecessor to current G service) ran as a shuttle service between Queens Plaza and Nassau Avenue on the IND Crosstown Line. Later that year, a $23 million loan was approved to finance the remainder of the line, along with other IND lines. Construction was suspended for 15 months from 1934 to 1935, and was further delayed due to a strike in 1935, instigated by electricians opposing wages paid by the General Railway Signal Company. An extension east to Union Turnpike opened on December 31, 1936. The line was extended to Hillside Avenue and 178th Street, with a terminal station at 169th Street on April 24, 1937. That day, express service began on the Queens Boulevard Line during rush hours, with E trains running express west of 71st–Continental Avenues, and GG trains taking over the local during rush hours. The initial headway for express service was between three and five minutes. 23rd Street–Ely Avenue station opened as an in-fill station on August 28, 1939. Upon its extension into Jamaica, the line drew Manhattan-bound passengers away from the nearby BMT Jamaica Line subway and the Long Island Rail Road.

From April 1939 to October 1940, the Queens Boulevard Line served the 1939 New York World's Fair via the World's Fair Railroad. The World's Fair line ran via a connection through the Jamaica Yard and through Flushing Meadows–Corona Park along the current right-of-way of the Van Wyck Expressway. After calls from public officials such as Queens Borough President George Harvey to make the line a permanent connection to Flushing and northern Queens, the line was demolished in 1941.

After LaGuardia Airport opened on February 21, 1940, the Roosevelt Avenue station became an important transfer point to buses to the airport, including the privately-owned Q33.

On December 15, 1940, F trains began running via the newly opened IND Sixth Avenue Line, also running express west of 71st–Continental Avenues. 169th Street and Parsons Boulevard were both used as terminal stations during this time, with the E terminating at one station and the F at the other. This setup was instituted to prevent congestion at both stations.

The existing 169th Street station provided an unsatisfactory terminal setup for a four track line, and this required the turning of F trains at Parsons Boulevard, and no storage facilities were provided at the station. Therefore, the line was going to be extended to 184th Place with a station at 179th Street with two island platforms, sufficient entrances and exits, and storage for four ten-car trains. The facilities would allow for the operation of express and local service to the station.Construction on the extension started in 1946, and was projected to be completed in 1949. The extension was completed later than expected and opened on December 11, 1950. This extension was delayed due to the Great Depression and World War II. Both E and F trains were extended to the new station.

Later yearsEdit

In 1953, the platforms were lengthened at 75th Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard to 660 feet to allow E and F trains to run eleven car trains. The E and F began running eleven car trains during rush hours on September 8, 1953. The extra train car increased the total carrying capacity by 4,000 passengers. The lengthening project cost $400,000.

In 1940, the Board of Transportation proposed a connection between the Queens Boulevard Line and the 60th Street Tunnel. Fifteen years later, on December 1, 1955, a connection to the 60th Street Tunnel opened, allowing trains from the BMT Broadway Line to serve Queens Boulevard as an additional local from 71st−Continental. This connection was one of the most important links in the system, with Crosstown Line trains, which originally were the sole trains to serve the Queens Boulevard local tracks, routed away from the Queens Boulevard Line in 2010. Service was initially provided by QT Broadway−Brighton trains (predecessor to the Q train). This service would be replaced by a new EE train in 1961 and later N trains in 1976. The now-R train was rerouted to the line in 1987.

In December 1988, the Archer Avenue Lines opened, utilizing existing provisions east of the Briarwood station. The E was rerouted to its current terminus at Jamaica Center. In December 2001, the connection to the IND 63rd Street Line and IND Second Avenue Line (both built along with the Archer Avenue subway), was opened and V trains were extended to run on the Queens Boulevard Line along with a new Y train. Connections to these lines caused some lines to share terminals on the east end. During weekdays, the F and Y ended at Jamaica-179th Street, the E and V went to Jamaica Center, and the G and R terminated at Forest Hills-71st Avenue. Weekends, the G and Y do not use the line and the V was cut back to Forest Hills. Late nights, the F is rerouted on the 63rd Street Line between 47-50th Streets and 36 St to replace the V.

In 2010, budget constraints within the MTA led to service reductions on the line. On April 19, 2010, G service was permanently truncated to Court Square at all hours. On June 27, 2010 V service was eliminated, and the M train was extended via the Chrystie Street Connection to replace it. Also, the F is rerouted on the 63rd Street Line and runs express between 21st Street and Forest Hills at all times with the weekday only M running via 53rd Street with the E.

Due to congestion on the line during peak hours, which has existed for much of the line's history, the MTA is seeking to automate the line, with phase one equipping the tracks from 50th Street/8th Avenue and 47th–50th Streets – Rockefeller Center] to Kew Gardens – Union Turnpike with communications-based train control. It had previously been proposed to reverse-signal the line, to allow three of the line's four tracks to run in a single peak direction. The $205.8 million contract for the installment of phase one was awarded in 2015 to Siemens and Thales. Planning for phase one started in 2015, with major engineering work to follow in 2017.

The automation of the Queens Boulevard Line means that the E F Y lines will be able to run 3 more trains during peak hours (it currently runs 29 tph). This will also increase capacity on the local tracks of the IND Queens Boulevard Line. However, as the line hosts several services, installation of CBTC on the line can be much harder than on the Flushing and Canarsie lines.

Provisions for expansionEdit

IND Second SystemEdit

The Queens Boulevard Line was originally planned to extend farther along Hillside Avenue into eastern Queens. The line would have gone at least to the intersection of Hillside, Springfield Boulevard and Braddock Avenue (the latter two both formerly part of Rocky Hill Road) in Queens Village, with later plans to go as far as Little Neck Parkway in Bellerose near the Nassau County border. The extension to Springfield Boulevard, which on contract drawings was referred to as Route 108-Section 13, would have been a two track extension of the D3 and D4 express tracks, with five stations, at 187th Street, 197th Street, Cross Island Boulevard (today's Francis Lewis Boulevard), 214th Street, and the terminal at Springfield Boulevard. All of these stations, with the exception of Springfield Boulevard, would have had two side platforms. Hillside Avenue was widened in the 1930s between 218th Street and 229th Street, in order to accommodate construction of the proposed Springfield Boulevard station. As part of the extension of the line to 179th Street in 1950, provisions were made to extend this line farther east via Hillside Avenue. East of the 179th Street there are two four track levels both used as train storage. The upper level was intended to be extended eastward, while the lower level was always intended to be used to relay and store trains. The tracks on the upper level are longer than the lower level tracks and the upper level tracks have a wooden partition at the bumper blocks. The tracks continue until 184th Street. Several stations along the line also have provisions for other extensions as part of the IND Second System. The Roosevelt Avenue station has an additional upper level platform and bellmouth provisions east of the station, which would have gone to a Queens crosstown line to the Rockaways. The 63rd Drive station has similar bellmouths, which would have fed directly into the inactive portion of the Long Island Rail Road's former Rockaway Beach Branch near its former junction with the LIRR Main Line (Whitepot Junction). One stop west, the Woodhaven Boulevard station has provisions to be converted into an express station. East of the Briarwood station, there were additional trackways built for an extension down Van Wyck Boulevard (today the Van Wyck Expressway) to Rockaway Boulevard, near the current site of John F. Kennedy International Airport. None of these proposals were ever funded, and only the Briarwood bellmouths were used for future expansion, while the Rockaway line was connected instead to the IND Fulton Street Line.

Program for ActionEdit

When proposed in the mid-1960s under the MTA's Program for Action, the Archer Avenue and 63rd Street subway lines were two parts of a major planned expansion of Queens Boulevard line service. The 63rd Street tunnel would have facilitated service between the Queens Boulevard line and the Second Avenue Subway, which turn south towards Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The proposed connection to the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch resurfaced, with proposed branch lines along other LIRR lines to outer Queens areas without rapid transit service. Expected to be completed by the mid-1970s and early 1980s, these plans (the most important of which are outlined below) were derailed by the 1970s fiscal crisis, which delayed the completion of all three lines lines.

"Super-express" lineEdit

The Archer Avenue and 63rd Street lines were planned to be connected by a "super-express" bypass of the Queens Boulevard line, The bypass would have used the outer two of the six trackways of the LIRR Main Line (formerly used by the Rockaway Beach Branch), which are currently unused, and would have allowed trains to travel at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. It would stretch from the 63rd Street Line east of 21st Street – Queensbridge, with the possibility of access to the 60th and 53rd Street tunnels. At its east end, it would have left the LIRR right-of-way near Whitepot Junction and ran under Yellowstone Boulevard to the Queens Boulevard Line near 71st Avenue station. The 71st Avenue station would have been converted into a bi-level or tri-level station, with the super express tracks using the lower level(s) built south of the current station, before rejoining the main line Queens Boulevard tracks. There were also plans for an intermediate stop at the current Woodside LIRR station, and an additional 63rd Street line station at Northern Boulevard adjacent to Queens Plaza. The bypass and proposed Woodside station would have necessitated the widening of the LIRR Main Line right-of-way onto private property west of Winfield Junction, where the Main Line merges with the Port Washington Branch, and reorganization of the track layout in the Sunnyside Yards. Later proposals suggested routing the bypass directly to the Archer Avenue line via the LIRR Montauk Branch (which no longer has passenger service).

While plans to construct the bypass existed as late as 1985, the connection to the Queens Boulevard line at Northern Boulevard was built as an alternative to the bypass. A bellmouth was built at the end of the tunnel should construction on the bypass ever commence.

Northeast Queens lineEdit

Another less publicized plan around this time was a branch line diverging from the Queens Boulevard mainline near Woodhaven Boulevard, and running along the Long Island Expressway (LIE) corridor to Kissena Boulevard at Queens College, and later to Fresh Meadows and Bayside. This "Northeastern Queens" line, or Route 131-C, would have been built in conjunction with the planned widening of the expressway. The subway tracks would have been placed under the expressway or its service roads, or in the median of a widened LIE in a similar manner to the Blue Line of the Chicago "L". The Woodhaven Boulevard station, using existing provisions, would be converted to an express station. Three new stations would have been built during the first phase of the line, at 99th Street near LeFrak City, at Main Street, and a terminal station at Kissena Boulevard. At Main Street there would have been three tracks, and two island platforms. East of the terminus at Kissena Boulevard, there would have been two levels of layup tracks, allowing for an extension further east. A similar line along the corridor had been proposed in the 1939 IND Second System plan as an extension of the BMT Broadway Line east of the 60th Street Tunnel, when the road was called Horace Harding Boulevard prior to the construction of the expressway.

Southeast Queens lineEdit

The most important of the proposed lines along LIRR branches was a "Southeast Queens" extension of the Archer Avenue subway along the Locust Manor branch to Springfield Gardens, which was the original intention of the Queens Boulevard extension to Archer Avenue. This would have used an existing provision east of Jamaica Center, and necessitated the installation of two dedicated subway tracks, construction of new stations and/or the conversion of existing facilities along the right-of-way.


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