"Q" Line Rolls with Art

NEW YORK CITY.- The first of four planned phases of the Second Avenue Subway opened on New Year's Day, marking the first major expansion of the New York City Subway system in 50 years.

In the early part of 2014, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority revealed that it would liven up stations along the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway line with tons of public art. On Sunday, visitors viewed the first of many planned installations.

The expansive and mesmerizing permanent artworks are the largest permanent public art installation in New York State history, and dozens of works spread out over the four stations along the extension.

"The Second Avenue subway provides New Yorkers with a museum underground and honors our legacy of building engineering marvels that elevate the human experience," Cuomo said in a statement. "Public works projects are not just about function—they’re an expression of who we are and what we believe. Any child who has never walked into a museum or an art gallery can walk the streets of New York and be exposed to art and education simply by being a New Yorker. That is where we came from and that is what makes New York special."

At the 63rd Street station, artist Jean Shin has used archival photos of the Second and Third avenue elevated trains to create images, as shown here, in ceramic tile, glass mosaic and laminated glass. All the scenes are a throwback to the time when those trains were in operation.

At the 72nd Street station, Vik Muniz’s installation “Perfect Strangers” features colorful images of New Yorkers created in mosaic. In all, the Brazilian artist has created over three dozen characters throughout the mezzanine and entrance areas.

Chuck Close is behind “Subway Portraits” at the 86th Street Station. In all, Close has created 10 works in mosaic and two works in ceramic tile. The nine-foot-high installations feature well-known subjects like Philip Glass, Kara Walker, and Lou Reed, along with the artist himself, of course.

Sarah Sze’s “Blueprint for a Landscape,” is made up of nearly 4,300 porcelain tiles spread throughout the 96th Street station, and in total the artwork spans about 14,000 square feet. The images depicted include “sheets of paper, scaffolding, birds, trees, and foliage—caught up in a whirlwind velocity that picks up speed and intensity as the composition unfolds throughout the station with references to energy fields and wind patterns.”

Massive Project

Phase 1 of the newly opened "Q" line runs from 96th Street down Second Avenue to 72nd Street. It crosses under Central Park and terminates on Manhattan's West Side at Seventh Avenue and 67th Street.

The price tag comes in around $4.5 billion—$700 million more than originally budgeted.

Phase 2, which would extend the line up to 125th Street near the Harlem River, is expected to cost $6 billion. Tunneling for that will begin in 2019 or 2020.

The MTA hasn't yet offered clear price estimates for Phases 3 and 4, which go down to Houston Street, and then to Hanover Square in the Financial District. The entire project is estimated at $17 billion.

Phase 1 adds three entirely new stations to the subway system, at 72nd, 86th, 96th—all along Second Avenue. The existing 63rd Street-Lexington Avenue Station, where the F runs, was also renovated so the new-and-improved Q train can stop there. There will be a cross-platform transfer between the Q and the F.

Two tunnels, one northbound and one southbound, were dug for Phase 1. Drilling of the northbound (west) tunnel—which is 1.47-miles- or 7,789-feet-long—took approximately eight months. It was completed in February 2011.

The southbound (east) tunnel, which at 1.36 miles, or 7,209 feet, is slightly shorter, was completed in September 2011. All told, the cost of the project works out to approximately $300,000 per foot tunneled.

A 450-foot long, 484-ton tunnel boring machine nicknamed "Adi" did the digging; it removed 15 million cubic feet of rock and 6 million cubic feet of soil. That's enough to bury a football field 360 feet deep. Adi was later shipped to Indianapolis to be used for another tunneling project.

The MTA expects 200,000 people to use the Phase 1 line on an average weekday. For context, that's more than half as many daily riders as the entire Los Angeles Metro system (350,000).