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Second Avenue Subway | © MTA / Flickr
Second Avenue Subway | © MTA / Flickr
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First Look at Second Avenue Subway, 90 Years in the Making

Picture of Loni Klara
Updated: 14 January 2017
This long-anticipated NYC subway line finally opened on January 1, 2017, to a jubilant crowd. Discover the story behind the nearly century-long planning that took place before New Yorkers finally got the chance to ride along the Second Avenue line, also known as “The Line that Time Forgot.”

Originally conceived in the 1920s, the Second Avenue Subway line was put on the back-burner during the Great Depression and brought back in the ’70s when the city’s officials gathered uptown for a groundbreaking ceremony. Fast forward several decades and the subway is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as New Yorkers celebrate eased commuter traffic on the Upper East Side for the first time in the city’s history.

Not only that, the Second Avenue line boasts an artistic exemplification of New York City. The colorful murals in the stations not only reflect the spirit of their locale but also make up the state’s biggest permanent public art installation. Ranging from depictions of people from bygone eras when the planning first began to characters commuters will encounter on the subway today, the walls owe their creativity to artists Chuck Close, Vik Muniz, Jean Shin, and Sarah Sze.

72nd Street Art | Vik Muniz © MTA/Flickr

72nd Street Art by Vik Muniz | © MTA / Flickr

63rd Street Art by Jean Shin | © MTA / Flickr

63rd Street Art by Jean Shin | © MTA / Flickr

The service currently runs between 96th and 63rd, with the Q train in operation. True to its long history, the Second Avenue story isn’t yet finished. The MTA will extend the service further north to 125th Street during its second phase; the eventual goal is to run a new train – designated the letter “T” – all along the avenue from 125th all the way downtown to Hanover Square.

A major deterrent is the enormous costs associated with the project. “Phase 1” ended up costing around $4.5 billion, and “Phase 2” is expected to cost another $6 billion. Construction for the next phase will likely begin around 2019-2020, putting the line’s total timeline to at least a century. However, in the end, it will probably be a lot longer than that.