NYTIP – extending the nyc subway, part 3: utica avenue

UPDATE (11.02.2020): Post updated with additional commentary. Some images updated.

Welcome back to my ongoing NYTIP series! In my last post, I discussed the Concourse and Pelham line extensions to Co-op City. In this post, I’ll discuss the Utica Avenue subway.

Like the Concourse extension, the city conceived a Utica Avenue subway long ago:

[Figs. 1, 2] Snippets of the IND Second System plan from 1929 showing the Utica Avenue subway. Under this plan, branches of the 6th and 8th Avenue lines meet in Brooklyn and then split into two branches – one serving Utica Avenue and another serving central Queens and the Rockaways.

[Fig. 3] Snippet of the IND Second System plan from 1939 showing the Utica Avenue subway. Unlike the 1929 plan, the subway turns onto Flatbush Avenue instead of Nostrand Avenue.

The Utica Avenue subway, however, predates the IND Second System plan – the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) company included provisions for such when building the Eastern Parkway line. MTA’s 1968 Program for Action would’ve used this provision to extend the Eastern Parkway line to Avenue U, where Kings Plaza sits. (Kings Plaza opened in 1970.)

Despite all of these plans, neither the old IRT, nor the city, nor the MTA built the Utica Avenue subway.

Even now, the MTA is studying improvements to the Utica Avenue corridor, including a Utica Avenue subway. However, the study hasn’t progressed.

vanshnookenraggen has a detailed post on the Utica Avenue subway’s history, as well as challenges associated with implementing each of the formally-proposed plans today. Given the history, what would a Utica Avenue subway look like under NYTIP? There are three possible options – let’s explore them.

Option 1: Extend the 4 train to Kings Plaza.

[Fig. 4] Overview of Option 1.

Recall the Eastern Parkway de-interlining plan under NYTIP. With a simple fix to the infamous Rogers (Nostrand) Junction, 2/3 trains run via Nostrand Avenue and 4/5 trains run via Eastern Parkway. East of Franklin Avenue, the 4 runs express to Crown Heights – Utica Avenue station and the 5 runs local to Linden Boulevard.

Option 1 changes 4/5 service east of Franklin Avenue – the 4 runs local and the 5 runs express instead of the other way around. This is because the Utica Avenue subway provisions extend from the local tracks after Utica Avenue station. Option 1 contemplates seven stations on Utica Avenue as shown above, including the Kings Plaza terminal. Owing to a high water table in southern Brooklyn, NYTIP contemplates a part-subway, part-elevated extension. One possible location for a portal is the space on the left side of Utica Avenue between Rutland Road and Clarkson Avenue:

[Fig. 5] Potential portal location. A portal in this area requires some property takings; however, the portal itself would be much narrower than the highlighted spaces.

As an alternative, since the proposed extension is two tracks, the subway could emerge through the street by appropriating road space; the likeliest candidate for this is the road between Snyder and Tilden Avenues. (The 1929 plan proposed an underground subway to about Avenue J before emerging onto an el – this is another potential option.)

Option 2: Build the Utica Avenue subway as a branch of the L train.

[Figs. 6, 7] Overview of Option 2.

Option 2 contemplates a new subway line branching off the L line south of Montrose Avenue station, called the I. From there, the subway runs under Bushwick Avenue for a short distance before running under private property to Stuyvesant Avenue. The subway continues under Stuyvesant Avenue until Fulton Street, where it runs under Boys and Girls High School (possibly using an existing provision) and Utica Avenue. At some point on Utica Avenue, the subway would emerge onto an el. Option 2 contemplates 12 new stations, most of which are the same as those in Option 1. Aside from those, the remaining stations are at Fulton Street (A/C), Gates Avenue, Myrtle Avenue (J/M/Z), and Flushing Avenue.

Advantages include increased service to L train stations at Montrose Avenue and points west, increased connectivity between subway lines in Brooklyn, and increased capacity compared with the 4 train extension. However, owing to its longer length, Option 2 is likely pricier than Option 1. Because this line branches off the L, it results in a net service cut to L train stations east of Montrose Avenue, including the busy Myrtle – Wyckoff Avenues station. This fact alone might make Option 2 a tough sell, which brings us to…

Option 3: Build the Utica Avenue subway as a new trunk line.

Option 3 is a modified version of the 1929 plan to build a Utica Avenue trunk line. The first element of this line is the Worth Street subway branching off the 8th Avenue line south of Canal Street. From Manhattan, the subway enters Brooklyn and eventually meets the Stuyvesant – Utica line proposed in Option 2.

In the 1929 plan, a branch of the 6th Avenue line from Houston Street and a branch of the 8th Avenue subway from Worth Street meet at South 4th Street in Brooklyn, serving stations at Havemeyer Street (near Washington Plaza and the Marcy Avenue J/M/Z station) and Union Avenue (at the Broadway G station); the city planned the latter as a major junction with 6 tracks and 4 platforms like the Hoyt – Schermerhorn Streets A/C/G station. From there, the Utica Avenue line would run roughly parallel to Broadway under private property to Beaver Street and Bushwick Avenue, and then travel via Stuyvesant and Utica Avenues.

Constructing such a line today would be difficult for several reasons. First, the Chrystie Street connection severed the connection between the 6th Avenue express tracks and Houston Street east of Broadway – Lafayette Street station:

[Fig. 8] Snippet of vanshnookenraggen’s track map showing the Chrystie Street connection (circled) and the provision for eastward expansion from the center tracks at 2nd Avenue station.

Therefore, the existing provisions on Houston Street connect only to the 6th Avenue local tracks, and the 6th Avenue local services (F/M) already split at this location. However, it may still be possible to use at least part of this provision for a branch of the SAS or another new line.

Other complications include redundancy (the proposed route closely parallels the J/M/Z lines on Broadway) and the large amounts of private property that the line must traverse between Union Avenue and Beaver Street. Owing to these complications, NYTIP does not contemplate Option 3. However, rather than dispensing with Option 3 entirely, NYTIP recommends building the Utica Avenue subway in a manner that allows further expansion later. Also, the aforementioned Central Queens line warrants a closer look, so I’ll come back to it in a future post.

Recommended path forward: Option 1. This option balances cost with expanded subway coverage, and does not preclude future use of expansion provisions.

In my next post, I’ll circle back to point 1 – enhance – to address some low-hanging fruit I forgot to mention previously. Until next time!

2 thoughts on “NYTIP – extending the nyc subway, part 3: utica avenue

  1. I agree that a Utica extension needs to be along the IRT. It is unfortunate, though, since IRT trains have less capacity than IND/BMT trains that ideally any new extension should be along the IND/BMT. I cannot justify doing a new subway right next to the J/M/Z for cost reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

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