A Subway Line 100 Years in the Making

Capping years of construction – and nearly a century of anticipation  – New York City’s Second Avenue Subway officially opened to the public on New Year’s Day this past weekend. This first section, known as Phase 1, runs from East 63rd Street to East 96th Street connects with midtown Manhattan and beyond.

For the Skanska USA crews who dug the tunnels, set the tracks and installed the switches that run the trains which will move an estimated 200,000 people a day, it was a moment of great satisfaction and pride.  But creating the first new subway line in a century was hardly easy.

A Complicated Project

It was in the early 1900s, when horse-drawn carriages and electric trolleys clogged the streets of New York City, that the idea for a Second Avenue Subway was first proposed. For decades, it was a project that was on-again, off-again, until about ten years ago.

“We looked at this back in 2007 and it was nothing—it was just rock,” said Skanska USA Civil Vice President of Operations Gary Almeraris.

The scope of the project was immense: boring two new subway tunnels 33 city blocks long that included accommodation for three new stations and the miles of connections – water, sewer, electrical, utility and even traffic signal wiring – that ran along and through it. The new 86th Street Station alone called for the excavation of 450,000 tons of rock underneath a densely populated neighborhood filled with residents and local businesses as well as cars, trucks, buses and pedestrians.

Close Coordination

Three separate Skanska JV teams – S3 Tunnel Connectors (Skanska Schiavone Shea), STJV (Skanska Traylor Brothers) and CSJV (Comstock Skanska) – worked together to complete different pieces of the project simultaneously to meet multiple deadlines.

Boring the massive tunnels for the Second Avenue Subway took coordination and patience among multiple Skanska teams and our JV partners. Credit: Skanska USA.

In one delicate operation, the S3 Tunnel Connectors team performing the tunnel boring needed to coordinate with another (non-Skanska) joint venture team that was excavating the 72nd Street cavern at the same time, directly above them.

“It was very laborious work,” notes Project Manager Alaeden Jlelaty. “We worked around the clock, three shifts. We had a few days where we exceeded 100-foot penetrations a day. And some days we did not move more than a fraction of a foot.”

Bringing Innovation Below Ground

Excavations for the 86th Street station added another Herculean task: removing 450,000 tons of material in order to create an enormous subterranean “launch box” or starting point where the tunnel boring machine (TBM) could be assembled and start its work.

Executive Vice President Mike Viggiano explains, “We engineered a special underground support system for a 30-story residential tower in order to safely excavate the foundation of the building to create a space for an escalator at the corner of 83rd Street, for an entrance to the subway station.” The team also developed a “muck handling system” that moved between 50 and 60 buckets of rock, with a weight equivalent to 23 cars, each day, while minimizing dust and noise.

Even the tunnel boring processes were completely different: while one tunnel went through predictably hard Manhattan schist (rock), the East tunnel path traversed a sloppy, messy material filled with water and soil, making it almost impossible to dig a clean path. “We did something really cool – we froze the ground,” says Viggiano. “Our team drilled pipes into the ground and filled it with chilled brine to harden the soil and made it act like rock. That process took about four months and gave us a safe, solid structure for the project.”

A pair of videos produced by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers explains more about the process that Skanska USA crews undertook to create the line, including the creation of the “launch box” and how freezing the ground and the tunnel boring machine (TBM) worked.

Skanska’s final contract as part of the Second Avenue Subway Phase One program was a joint venture with Comstock Electric to supply and install all the running rail, third rail power, signal and communication systems that enable trains to operate from the tie-in at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue through the new Stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th on Second Avenue.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and elected officials preview the Second Avenue Subway earlier this month. Credit: Michael Benabib.

A Subway for the Next 100 Years

For now, the line is an extension of the Q line, but when the full run of the line is complete, it will be branded the T train (following the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s convention of lettered and numbered lines) and comprise a total of 16 stations, running eight and a half miles.

Building the Second Avenue Subway (called a “once in a lifetime project” by Jlelaty) safely and effectively with minimal disruption to hundreds of thousands of people who live and work on the Upper East Side is something of which our teams are immensely proud – and is a project 100 years in the making.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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Mentors Teach Valuable Lessons – and Learn Something, Too

Mentors can change people’s lives.

In addition to sharing invaluable insight learned through personal experience, a mentor can provide support and encouragement along an employee’s career path that can drive them toward greater success and achievement.

At Skanska, we seek to develop our employees through strategic pairings, based on goals and areas of expertise. The Metro NY chapter of the Skanska Women’s Network recently completed its latest 6-month Mentorship Program with 21 pairs of mentors/mentees across multiple parts of our business.

Constructive Thinking spoke with three recent program participants who describe how being part of a mentor/mentee relationship has changed their outlook on their careers.

Matheus de Lima, mentee
Accountant – Parsippany, NJ

2016-06-02 PHOTO-Matheus DeLima

“I believe that everyone needs a mentor. After the SWN Mentorship Program, I realized how important it is to share ideas with someone who has a different perspective and more experience than I have. My mentor has taught me how to deal with specific situations and especially how to be more patient – a trait that can often be in short supply and can negatively impact one’s career path. With a mentor, you have someone to share all your career expectations, desires, frustrations and they help put things in perspective so that you may see things you normally do not see. I would encourage everyone to find a mentor, in any area. It’s always easier to run a race when you have someone who already ran the race willing to walk with you.”


Jessica Miller, mentor
Project Manager on the Kosciuszko Bridge project – Queens, NY

2016-06-02 PHOTO-Jessica Miller

“Looking back on my career, I have been fortunate to learn from some of the best mentors at Skanska, from when I joined the company in 2003 until today.  I have learned so much from these folks – some of whom are now the executive leaders of our company.  My mentors have inspired and guided me along my career, providing support, networking, technical advice, and friendship.  Having gained that experience from my own mentors, I wanted to pass along that same experience to someone else!  Additionally, as a woman in (the male-dominated world of) construction, I was excited about the chance to share lessons I had learned over the past 13 years and to offer a female voice and perspective on career development. My mentee and I were a great match from day one.  Coming from two different business units provided a perfect opportunity for us to explore how the various parts of Skanska operate.  Our formal relationship grew over the program as we reviewed architectural and design documentaries, shared ideas over dinner and toured job sites in the rain.  It was a fulfilling six months exploring Skanska and our career development.  We are excited to keep the mentor/mentee relationship going!”


Jillian Condiracci, mentee
Field Engineer at the Bayonne Bridge project – Bayonne, NJ

2016-06-02 PHOTO-Jillian Condiracci

“I have had many mentors over my career.  Being a good mentor takes patience, time and effort. My mentor, Paul Pedini, took the time to always fit me into his schedule – even when he was booked solid. One of my fondest memories was a visit to the First Street Tunnel in Washington D.C. To anyone else, this trip could have just been another job site visit, but to me it was much more. Not only did I take technical experience from this trip, I also was able to meet one of my Skanska idols, Gary Almeraris. Being able to witness this “tunneling guru” in action was a moment that not even my Instagram could capture. Six months later, Gary visited my current job site at Bayonne Bridge and I was able to return the favor and give him a tour my current operation. The first time I met him I was 100 feet underground and now six months later I was standing next to him 200 feet in the air. Reflecting back on those short six months, not only was I standing taller but my confidence in myself and my ability grew as well.”

To learn more about the Skanska Women’s Network, please visit http://www.usa.skanska.com/about-skanska/our-core-values/diversity/skanska-womens-network-swn/.”

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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