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CBS 2 Exclusive: Progress Moves Ahead For Phase One Of Second Avenue Subway

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Second Avenue Subway will mark the first major expansion of the New York City subway system in 50 years.

CBS 2's Andrea Grymes got an exclusive underground look at progress on phase one of the project.

On the Upper East Side of Manhattan – some 110 feet below the buildings, cars, and pedestrians – a huge project is under way to bring the new subway line to Second Avenue. Construction has been under way since 2007.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority capital construction president Dr. Michael Horodniceanu gave CBS 2's Grymes a firsthand look at the progress.

"This is the rail," Horodniceanu said. "You can see it was delivered already."

Phase one of the project is now two thirds complete. It will extend the Q Train from 57th Street and Seventh Avenue across town to 96th Street and Second Avenue.

Once the entire project is done, the Q Train will run northward to 125th Street in East Harlem, while a new T Train will run from 125th Street to Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan.

There has not been a subway expansion on project on such a scale since the 1940s – before the New York City Transit Authority had even yet been created. But plans for the Second Avenue Subway project go back even before that – the Second Avenue Subway was first proposed in 1929.

But now, officials said, the new subway line is desperately needed to alleviate overcrowding on the nearby No. 4, 5 and 6 lines along Lexington Avenue.

Phase one of the project calls for three brand new stations, at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets. They will serve 200,000 daily riders.

"It's a very different approach," Horodniceanu said. "The openness; the airiness -- it's quite different."

Massive pieces of construction equipment have been loaded down form a hole at ground level. Sometimes, the equipment is broken apart and reassembled below ground.

On an average workday, there are some 700 to 900 workers involved.

But the MTA admitted the biggest challenge is not the construction itself, but actually doing the work in the most densely-populated area of the United States.

"We have been here 24 years, and this is horrible," said Caryn Klausner, owner of Promises Fulfilled at 1592 Second Ave.

Klausner said she has had a monumentally tough time during construction.

"No one walks on the sidewalk," she said. "There's no street; there's no parking."

Ruairi Curtin actually opened up the Penrose bar, 1590 Second Ave., during subway construction – thanks to a good break in rent.

"We've been doing well, but I think we'll be doing a lot better when the subway opens and when the construction moves," Curtin said.

Horodniceanu was also looking forward to the completion of the project.

"People understand now that there is going to be a great benefit by completing this project," he said.

The MTA said phase one of the Second Avenue Subway project is coming in under budget, at $4.45 billion.

And as they say, there is light at the end of the construction tunnel. Phase one is set for completion in December 2016.

But there is no estimated completion date or price tag yet for the entire project.

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