The Second Avenue Subway (officially the IND Second Avenue Line; abbreviated to SAS) is a rapid transit subway line, part of the New York City Subway system. Originally with no express service, this line runs between 116 Street and Court Street. The express tracks were scheduled to be opened on December 30, 2016, but opened a month earlier on November 7th.

The Second Avenue Subway has been a plan, and occasional construction project, since 1929. The reasons for the line's many false starts and delays are numerous and complex. The line is sometimes referred to as "The Line That Time Forgot".

Extent and serviceEdit

The following services use part or all of the Second Avenue Line:

Route Services
  Time period South of
Whitehall St
Whitehall St
and Grand Street
Between Grand Street and
55 St
55 St
72 St
72 St
116 St
All times except late nights
No service
Late Nights
All times
No service
No service
No service

The line's first station was Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn, which opened on April 9, 1936, along with a long section of the Fulton Street Line and the Rutgers Street Tunnel. The station used one center island platform with two tracks. The tracks ended at bumper blocks just beyond the west end of the platform until the opening of the Schermerhorn Street tunnel and the Second Avenue line south of Grand Street (then named IND Chrystie Street line) on July 1, 1968. West of the Schermerhorn Street tunnel, the line curves north and stops at South Ferry, which has three tracks and two island platforms like the BMT counterpart on the BMT Broadway line. The middle track is used to relay Y trains.

North of South Ferry, the line becomes two tracks again and stays that way until north of Chatham Square. The express tracks begin, creating a "lower level" for express trains. A connection south from the BMT Nassau Street line meets up with the local tracks going uptown before the tracks enter Grand Street for a cross-platform transfer between the IND Second Avenue and Sixth Avenue Line trains, with two side platforms on the lower level for express trains. Grand Street upper level was designed with two island platforms in a four-track layout, with diamond crossovers north of the station which allows Second Avenue Line to connect to the Manhattan Bridge. An unused pair of tracks also exist to connect Second Avenue local trains to the IND Sixth Avenue local tracks. These tracks were used by the VV (later V) line (except rush hours from 1968-1976; the connection was also used to connect the IND Sixth Avenue line with the BMT Nassau Street line) until shortly after the rest of the Second Avenue line opened.

The local tracks once again becomes two tracks with the lower level paralleling the upper level tracks for nearly the rest of the line. There are four sections where the two levels connect each other:

  • Between Houston Street and 14 Street, connecting the local tracks at Houston Street to the express tracks at 14th Street.
  • North of 42nd Street on the upper level, two middle tracks form and connect to the lower level.
  • In the 63rd Street area, express tracks are able to connect to the upper level using part of the BMT 63rd Street Line.
  • Between 106th Street and 116th Street, a middle tracks from the lower lever rise to the upper level, allowing trains to connect to the express tracks south of 116 Street in case of an emergency.

North of 55th street, two tracks break from both levels and connect to the IND 63 Street line to Queens. South of 72nd Street, the BMT 63 Street line connects to the Second Avenue line and merge with the local tracks, with a middle track for the upper level for short turns from the north end of the BMT 63 Street line, Second Avenue express trains, and all lines (on the upper level) north of 72 Street.

North of 116 Street, two tracks on the local tracks run through the Harlem satelite yard and onto the IND Throgs Neck Line while the express Tracks head towards the IND 125 Street line.


Originally proposed in 1929 as part of a massive expansion of the Independent Subway System (IND), work on the line never commenced, as the Great Depression crushed the economy of the state and country. Need for the Second Avenue Subway line grew along with the population of Manhattan's East Side. Until 1989, the lone rapid transit option on the Upper East Side was the four-track IRT Lexington Avenue Line. Even then, because of the lack if express tracks, the IRT Lexington Avenue Line became the most crowded in the country; the line sees an average of 1.3 million daily riders, more than the entire Washington Metro system (which has the second-highest ridership in the U.S.) and more than the rail transit systems of San Francisco and Boston combined. Local bus routes are just as crowded during various times of the day, with the surface Second Avenue Line, carrying the M15 bus, seeing an annual ridership of 17.5 million, or a daily ridership of about 47,945. The construction of the Second Avenue line would add another two tracks to fill the gap that has existed since the elevated IRT Second Avenue Line was demolished in the 1950's and the IRT Third Avenue Line was removed in 1955–56.

The city started planning, again, in 1945, to build the new subway and bought new trains (the R11s) in 1949 for use on the new line. New York voters approved bond acts for its construction in 1951 and in 1967. Money from the 1951 bond measure was diverted to buy new cars, lengthen platforms, and maintain other parts of the aging New York City subway system. In 1967-68, a small section of the line, then named the Chrystie Street line, opened between Grand Street and Court Street with a connection to the IND 6th Avenue line at Broadway Lafayette Street. The proceeds of the 1967 bond act were partly used to begin tunneling under Second Avenue. Digging began in 1972; however, a few years later, the city became insolvent. "It's the most famous thing that's never been built in New York City, so everyone is skeptical and rightly so," said Gene Russianoff, an advocate for subway riders since 1981. "It's much-promised and never delivered." In 1977, construction on the line was continued, and the entire line to 125 Street (Lexington Avenue) was eventually completed by 1989. A connection to a new IND Throgs Neck line opened in 1995.

In August 2006, the MTA revealed that all Second Avenue subway stations will be reconstructed with air-cooling systems to reduce the temperature along platforms. In November 2007, Mary Peters, the United States Secretary of Transportation announced that the Second Avenue Subway would receive $1.3 billion in federal funding for the project's first phase, to be funded over a seven-year period. The first phrase, between 72 Street and 96 Street, is expected to be completed by the time the express tracks open.

Initial attemptsEdit

1919–41: Initial planningEdit

The need for a subway line under Manhattan's Second Avenue was recognized shortly after the First World War. In 1919, the New York Public Service Commission launched a study at the behest of engineer Daniel L. Turner to determine what improvements were needed in the city's public transport system. The Second Avenue Elevated operated above Second Avenue north of the Queensboro Bridge from March 1880 until 1940, and south to downtown, part of the way on First Avenue, until June 12, 1949. The Third Avenue Elevated operated a block to the west until 1955. Turner's final paper, titled Proposed Comprehensive Rapid Transit System, was a massive plan calling for new routes under almost every north-south Manhattan avenue, extensions to lines in Brooklyn and Queens, and several crossings of the Narrows to Staten Island. Massively scaled-down versions of some of Turner's plans were found in proposals for the new city-owned Independent Subway System (IND). Among the plans was a massive trunk line under Second Avenue consisting of at least six tracks and numerous branches throughout Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

In 1929, the Board of Transportation of the City of New York tentatively approved the expansion, which included a Second Avenue Line with a projected construction cost of $98,900,000, not counting land acquisition. From north to south, the 1929 plan included four tracks from the Harlem River (where it would continue north as a Bronx trunk line with several branches) to 125th Street, six tracks from 125th Street to a link with the IND Sixth Avenue Line at 61st Street, four tracks from 61st Street to Chambers Street, and two tracks from Chambers Street to Pine Street. Due to the Great Depression, the soaring costs of the expansion became unmanageable. Construction on the first phase of the IND was already behind schedule, and the city and state were no longer able to provide funding. A scaled-down proposal including a turnoff at 34th Street and a connection crosstown was postponed in 1931.

Further revision of the plan and more studies followed. By 1939, construction had been postponed indefinitely, and Second Avenue was relegated to "proposed" status. The 1939 plan for subway expansion took the line not only into the Bronx (by now as a single line to Throggs Neck, which would later become the IND Throgs Neck Line in 1995) but also south into Brooklyn, connecting to the stub of the IND Fulton Street Line at Court Street (completed in 1968). The United States' entry into World War II in 1941 halted all but the most urgent public works projects, delaying the Second Avenue Line once again.

1945–69: After World War IIEdit

Finally, in 1945, plans for the Second Avenue Subway were again revised. The southern two-track portion was abandoned as a possible future plan for connecting the line to Brooklyn.

A 1947 plan once again connected the Second Avenue Line to Brooklyn, but via the BMT trackage over the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. A connection would allow trains from these bridges to go onto the IND Sixth Avenue Line rather than the Second Avenue Line. Other connections to the Second Avenue Line were to be provided at 57th Street, via a line connecting to the Sixth Avenue Line; two express tracks would be built along that line north of West Fourth Street. The IRT Pelham Line would be switched to the combined IND/BMT division (this plan also includes other connections, which have been built), and connected to the Second Avenue Line. The Second Avenue Line would end just north of that connection, at 149th Street, with transfers to the IRT White Plains Road Line and the elevated IRT Third Avenue Line, the latter of which would be demolished south of 149th Street. Another plan in 1951 mirrored this intention.

In 1949, the New York Board of Transportation accepted delivery of 300 new subway cars made of stainless steel from the Budd Company, named by their contract, R11, specifically intended for the Second Avenue Subway. They cost US$100,000 (US$991,189 in 2015 dollars[31]) each; the trains became known as the "million dollar trains". The cars featured porthole style round windows and a new public address system. Reflecting public health concerns of the day, especially regarding polio, the R11 cars were equipped with electrostatic air filters and ultraviolet lamps in their ventilation systems to kill germs.

By 1950, the plans called for a connection from Second Avenue at 76th Street to 34th Avenue in Queens, via a new tunnel under the East River. The city was barely able to raise money for the construction effort, but the onset of the Korean War caused soaring prices for construction materials and saw the beginning of massive inflation.

A 1954 plan added another feeder, an East River tunnel at 76th Street, connecting existing Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) trackage (which would be converted for subway use) to the Second Avenue Line towards downtown. This plan has been revitalized as part of the 2005 Transportation Bond Act, which would connect the LIRR trackage to Grand Central Terminal via the 63rd Street Tunnel as part of the East Side Access project.

The southernmost part of the 1947 plan, connecting the two BMT bridges and the Second Avenue Line to the IND Sixth Avenue Line, was built in the 1960s and opened in 1967 as the IND Chrystie Street line. Other parts of that plan were carried out, including the connection at 57th Street (moved to 63rd Street) and the abandonment of the IRT Third Avenue Line south of 149th Street, but the rest of the Second Avenue Line was not opened at this time.


In 1964, Congress passed the Urban Mass Transportation Act, promising federal money to fund mass transit projects in America's cities via the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. In 1967, voters approved a $2.5 billion Transportation Bond Issue, which provided over $600 million for New York City projects, including for a 1968 Program for Action. The Second Avenue project, for a line from 34th Street to the Bronx, was given top priority. The City secured a Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) grant for initial construction, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held on October 27, 1972. Construction began shortly thereafter at Second Avenue and 103rd Street.

However, the city soon experienced its most dire fiscal crisis yet. The stagnant economy of 1975, combined with the massive outflow of city residents to the suburbs, led to a fiscal disaster for the city. Construction of the subway was halted, with only two sections of tunnel having been completed, excluding the line south of Grand Street. These sections are between 99th and 105th Streets, and between 110th and 120th Streets. The sections between 99th and 105th and the section between 110th and 120th Streets were used as part of the Second Avenue line when it opened in 1989. The entire line was opened October 29, 1989, With a new T between 125th Street and Whitehall Street (later extended to Far Rockaway). In 2001, Y began service between Jamaica- 179th Street and Whitehall Street-South Ferry when the 63rd street line connected to the IND Queens Boulevard line.

Express TracksEdit


With the city's economic and budgetary recovery in the 1990s, there was a revival of efforts to complete construction of the SAS; construction was to stop after 125th Street. Rising ridership on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line, the only subway trunk line east of Central Park With express service, demonstrated the need for a Second Avenue Express, as capacity and safety concerns rose.

The MTA's final environmental impact statement was approved in April 2004; the latest proposal is for a two-track express from 116th Street in Harlem, down Second Avenue to Grand Street in the Lower East Side. The T is proposed to begin express service and be rerouted onto the IND 125th Street line, with a new U line taking it's place north of Grand Street.

New York voters passed a transportation bond issue in November 2005, allowing for dedicated funding allocated for the Second Avenue Express. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on December 18, 2006, they would allow the MTA to commit up to $693 million in funds to begin construction of the Second Avenue express and that the federal share of such costs would be reimbursed with FTA transit funds, subject to appropriations and final labor certification.

In June 2008, the MTA, facing cost increases for construction materials and diesel fuel affecting the prices of contracts not yet signed, announced that certain features of the Second Avenue Subway would be simplified to save money. Supplemental environmental impact studies covering the changes to for the new proposed 72nd Street station was completed in June 2009, but were never implemented due to budget cuts.

Deep bore tunneling methods were used in construction to avoid the disruptions for Train traffic, road traffic, pedestrians, utilities and local businesses produced by cut-and-cover methods of past generations.

The construction site extends from 120th Street and Second Avenue to Grand Street and Chrystie Street. Construction began with moving utility pipes, wires, and other infrastructure, which took 14 months, far more than the MTA's anticipated eight months. For boring, a trench was dug from 120th street to the Manhattan Bridge. The tunnel boring machine started work in May 2010, beginning at 116th Street and boring southward to connecting shafts built north of Worth Street Tunneling work was completed in September 2011.

Construction work on middle/express tracks took place between Houston Street and 14 Streets and between 55th Street and 72nd Street, and connect the express tracks with the local tracks.


The plans for the Second Avenue Subway involve digging approximately 8.5 miles (13.7 km) of new tunnels from 120th Street in Harlem south to Chatham Square, which is located near Manhattan's Financial District. Before the express tracks were completed, the T ran local stops on the Second Avenue line. After construction was completed on November 7th, the T began making express stops, being replaced by the U between 125th Street and Grand Street. Express stations were located at 116th Street, 72nd Street, 42nd Street, 14th Street, Houston Street, and Grand Street. Plans called for the U service to operate between Throgs Neck and Bay Parkway via the Throgs Neck, Second Avenue, Nassau, 4th Avenue, and West End local lines, but U service did not operate south of Broad Street when introduced. T service was cut from the Bronx, and instead operated to Broadway-125 Street. As part of the changes, Q service was cut to 72nd Street late nights.