What’s it like building a New York City subway?

In some ways, Skanska’s work expanding New York City’s labyrinth of subways is like most of our other heavy civil assignments across the nation: blasting rock, moving earth and pouring concrete are common tasks everywhere, as is ensuring the unimpeded and safe passage of pedestrians and traffic.

But in other ways, working beneath the Big Apple’s streets is an undertaking found few other places. You might not see daylight for your entire shift, and your mobile phone likely won’t have service. Roaming in this different world are tunnel-boring machines, which use their heft – up to five stories tall and stretching the length of a football field – to carve subway tubes out of hard Manhattan schist. And as everything going to and coming from an underground site is transported through an access shaft, the crane atop that shaft becomes your lifeline.


Up to 16 inches of sprayed-on concrete is part of the structural system for the new 86th Street subway station in New York City. (Photo: MTA Capital Construction)

Here are what some Skanska team members had to say about the experience:

“It’s like building a ship in a bottle.”

– Nick Vitucci, superintendent

“This is a different kind of job. Here, you have to create the area in which you work.”

– Mike Ceglio, safety engineer

“I’ve been on really long concrete pours from maybe 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. Afterward, we’d surface and there might be a foot of snow on the ground – it had fallen when we were underground and we hadn’t expected it. Those are always interesting experiences.”

– Michael DeMonaco, field engineer

“Down here, everyone has each other’s back. You spend more time with your family down here than with your family at home. Everyone on our team is a really good person – salt of the earth.”

– John Kiernan, superintendent

In this video, our teams used their smartphones to capture one another describing what it’s like working on these projects.

Many roles in current subway expansions

Skanska’s roles in both of New York City’s major subway expansion projects cover all aspects of new subway construction, from the gritty tasks involved with shaping the rock to the detailed craftsmanship associated with installing the escalators, wall panels and signs that will be part of New Yorkers’ commutes for generations to come.


Beneath yellow waterproofing material, a concrete form and rebar template are being readied to pour the arched ceiling at the 86th Street subway station. (Photo: MTA Capital Construction)

In our work bringing the Second Avenue Subway line to Manhattan’s dense Upper East Side, a joint venture of Skanska/Traylor is mining and concreting a cavern at 86th Street for a new subway station. This builds on previous work that a joint venture of Skanska/Shea/Schiavone performed in boring two 22-foot-diameter tunnels between 63rd and 92nd streets for the trains to roll.

On Manhattan’s Far West Side, a joint venture of Skanska/Railworks is installing architectural finishes and mechanical, signal and other systems in new tunnels and a new station to extend the No. 7 line to the city’s rapidly growing Hudson Yards section. Again, this adds to yet another joint venture that Skanska participated in (Shea/Schiavone/Skanska) in boring the tunnels – which extend 1.5 miles from the Times Square station – and building the structure of the new station.


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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