Billion-Dollar Water Tunnel Burrows to Halfway Point

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PB: Shaping NYC’s Subway System for More Than 100 Years

Wed May 17, 2006 - Northeast Edition
David S. Chartock



The name Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) has long been synonymous with large-scale engineering feats, especially in transportation.

The firm’s founder, William Barclay Parsons, opened an office in Manhattan in 1885. One of his earliest undertakings was the design of New York City’s first subway, the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), which opened in 1904.

In 1906, Henry M. Brinckerhoff, a pioneering railroad engineer, brought his expertise to the firm. Known for his co-invention of the third rail, which revolutionized rapid transit, Brinckerhoff designed the network of roads at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

Since completion of the IRT, Parsons Brinckerhoff has been shaping New York City’s transit system.

Today, the firm is continuing this heritage with the design of the $2 billion, 1.5-mi. extension of the No. 7 subway line from Times Square to 34th Street and 11th Avenue.

Currently, the No. 7 line runs from Main Street in Flushing (Queens), to Times Square, offering service to Shea Stadium, the U.S. Tennis Association’s Arthur Ashe Stadium and the site of the 1964 World’s Fair, and Grand Central Terminal. The planned extension will provide a connection to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and will be key to the planned redevelopment of the far West Side.

David A. Donatelli, a senior vice president of Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc., a division of PB, is the firm’s project manager of the No. 7 line extension. Donatelli is leading the team’s effort to minimize the project’s environmental impact and reduce reliance on non-renewable energy sources in compliance with MTA New York City Transit’s (NYCT’s) environment program and to meet New York’s mandate to state agencies to increase design efficiency.

According to Donatelli, PB is working with NYCT to develop a “green” program that will enable the project to exceed the agency’s benchmark for sustainable design.

“We are looking at a host of options, new materials, technologies and strategies in order to surpass the sustainable design objectives,” he said. “Extensive use of day lighting, or natural light, will be enhanced by state-of-the-art fiber optic technology-based day lighting demand measures within the stations. Other “green” elements may include computerized automated building system technologies, and various water conservation measures.”

Currently in its final design stage, the project is intended to serve as a catalyst for the redevelopment of commercial and residential property. To spur this growth, the city had to rezone the area to provide a greater floor-to-area ratio. PB’s analysis in the project’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) addressed impacts and mitigation measures to permit the redevelopment of a total of 40 million sq. ft. (3.7 million sq m) by 2025, including a mix of new commercial and residential properties.

To provide an adjunct to the EIS, PB devised comprehensive traffic maintenance and a protection plan intended to minimize the impact of construction on the local community.

Donatelli’s team also developed an extensive geotechnical program that incorporates tunnel boring and mine construction techniques. The tunnel portion of the project will run from 11th Avenue and 25th Street up to 41st Street, and east to Times Square station. Stations will be located at 10th Avenue and 41st Street and at 11th Avenue and 34th Street. Once the tunnel boring machines complete their task, creating approximately 19.6-ft. (6 m) inside diameter tunnels, mine construction will be used to expand the tunnels at station sites. At 34th Street and 11th Avenue, an approximately 66-ft. (20.1 m) wide cavern will be excavated to accommodate a two-track station with platforms. Similarly, cut and cover construction will be used for the 10th Avenue and 41st Street station.

At the 34th Street station, the design will help to create a park-like setting in a dense urban environment. A bank of escalators from the station will open onto a new park. In addition to the park, the project will spark new and expanded public infrastructure and public buildings.

Donatelli and his team have completed the EIS and preliminary engineering. They are currently advancing the final design for the No. 7 line extension. Bids for the first major construction package are expected to be let by the fourth quarter of 2006. CEG