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

UPDATE (04.12.2021): Post revised with additional commentary and updated images. Because NYTIP is still a work in progress, I’m removing language referring to recommended plans, and instead listing the options I’m currently considering.

Welcome back to my ongoing NYTIP series! In my last post, I discussed subway extensions to Co-op City. In this post, I’ll discuss subway extensions via Utica Avenue, a dense but underserved corridor in Brooklyn.

Note: Click any image to enlarge.

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 SAS, 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 turned 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, which includes the challenges associated with building such a subway today. Given the history and the challenges, what would a Utica Avenue subway look like under NYTIP? There are several possible options – let’s explore them.

Option 1: Extend the 4 train to Kings Plaza via Utica Avenue

[Fig. 4] Overview of Option 1. Created using Brand New Subway.

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

Under Option 1, service east of Franklin Avenue flips – the 4 runs local and the 5 runs express. This is because the Utica Avenue subway provisions extend from the local tracks. 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, the Utica Avenue subway would emerge onto an el after some distance. 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 and possibly realigning Utica Avenue (compare the Culver line); however, the portal itself would be narrower than the highlighted spaces.

Alternatively, since Option 1 contemplates a two-track extension, 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 Avenue J before emerging onto an el – this is another potential option.)

To ensure minimal conflict between 4 and 5 trains, Option 1 includes a new switch for 5 trains near Sutter Avenue – Rutland Road station:

[Fig. 6] New switch near Sutter Avenue – Rutland Road station, which gives Manhattan-bound 5 trains direct access to the Eastern Parkway express track. (Original track map by vanshnookenraggen.)

In addition, the subway would have provisions for future expansion – both for a full-length Utica Avenue subway and up to four tracks. To that end, the tunnels and the el would have B Division clearances.

Option 2: New “I” train – build the Utica Avenue subway as a branch of the L line

[Figs. 7, 8] Overview of Option 2.

Option 2 contemplates a new “I” train, which makes the same stops as the L train between 8th Avenue – 14th Street and Montrose Avenue. From Montrose Avenue station, the I train branches off, running under Bushwick Avenue for a short distance before traversing private property to Stuyvesant Avenue. The subway then continues toward Fulton Street, where it runs under Boys and Girls High School using an existing provision, then reaches Utica Avenue. At some point on Utica Avenue, the subway would emerge onto an el. The entire line would have two tracks. 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 in Option 1. Disadvantages include cost – this line is longer than the 4 extension – and a net reduction in service at L line 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: Extend the C train to Kings Plaza via Worth Street and Utica Avenue

[Figs. 9, 10] Overview of Option 3.

Option 3 is a modified version of the 1929 plan for a full-length Utica Avenue subway. 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 traverses Broadway, South 4th Street, and private property before meeting the Stuyvesant – Utica line proposed in Option 2. In this option, the C train traverses the new subway to Kings Plaza; consequently, the World Trade Center station platforms would close except for short-turns.

The full-length Utica Avenue subway contemplated by Option 3 would have two tracks. It leaves all provisions for future expansion intact, such as connections to 6th Avenue, SAS, and an expansion to four tracks.

This option offers several advantages in terms of capacity and coverage, such as new service in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn underserved by existing subways; however, it also has several drawbacks. Aside from the most obvious one – cost – Option 3 would not provide meaningful relief to the Lexington Avenue line (4/5 trains) since most riders would likely transfer at Eastern Parkway. In my view, the 8th Avenue local is not the best choice for the full-length Utica Avenue subway; however, it could work in a four-track scenario.

Common Investments

All 3 options include connections to new storage yards either along the LIRR Bay Ridge right-of-way, or south of Kings Plaza in the vicinity of the Flatbush Avenue/Belt Parkway interchange – or both. The new yards would support service expansion and improvement; for Option 1 especially, such yards would relieve pressure on Livonia Yard, which is currently the only storage yard for IRT trains in Brooklyn.

As of 04.12.2021, I am leaning toward Option 1 as “Phase 1” for near-term improvement, and a modified version of Option 3 as “Phase 2” for long-term improvement. Option 1 balances cost with expanded subway coverage, and does not preclude future expansion. In the future, a branch of SAS should serve the full-length Utica Avenue subway to provide meaningful relief to the Lexington Avenue line and expand subway coverage. I’ll discuss this further in a future post.

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!

4 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

  2. Just wondering is there a realistic possibility of expanding the 2nd ave line to Williamburg or Utica Avenue line

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