Times Square Shuttle Station is not only part of the busiest subway station complex in New York City, but its tangled layout can also be one of the most confusing for even the most experienced of the more than 200,000 passengers it serves every day.
Located near the intersection of 42nd street and Broadway, the station is located within the original four-track tunnels that were constructed in 1904. Many of the station’s problems stem from a curved track alignment that creates large platform gaps and prevents the station from being accessible in accordance to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In addition, the station is limited to serving short three- and four-car trains on three operating tracks, and the layout requires passengers to board each train from a different platform, contributing to the confusion and congestion.
After numerous attempts since the 1950s to modify and reconstruct the existing station failed to remedy the situation, New York City Transit (NYCT) commissioned WSP to undertake conceptual feasibility and constructability studies that would address the stations problems and explore reconstruction opportunities.
Road to Success
Two successful conceptual feasibility and constructability studies were undertaken by NYCT and WSP in 2014 and 2015.
“The Times Square Shuttle Reconstruction Study required a constant search for new concepts and solutions, combinations of various concepts, and allowed us to go beyond conventional and typical methods,” said Aram Grigoryan, project manager for WSP. “The road to success started in 2014 with a great team that included our client – the professionals and principals at NYCT – who had a vision to undertake and fund the two studies and to support us by continuously questioning and scrutinizing our engineering solutions.”
The challenge also required WSP to consider creative and innovative methods to maintain station operations during construction and minimize impact on passengers – all without above-ground excavation.
“One of the most significant achievements of this study that exceeded expectations is that the Shuttle Station will be reconstructed and modified without the need for any excavation along 42nd Street,” Grigoryan said.
The reconstructed station will be shifted about 350 feet east of the current station footprint and into the existing Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) rail tunnels. The new station will be served by two six-car-long trains on Tracks 1 and 4.
Structural modifications recommended by the study to improve the station include construction of a 28-foot wide center platform to serve both tracks, removal of 122 existing five-foot spaced columns along platform edges, removal of 11 mezzanine columns to improve passenger circulation and construction of new foundations to support 45 new station columns.
“The study developed modifications that will provide improved service, passenger safety, circulation, and convenience, benefitting the growing number of passengers using Shuttle and Times Square Station Complex,” Grigoryan said. “These improvements will save time, simplify and streamline shuttle circulation. It is consistent with the growing importance and value of this prime Midtown Manhattan location.”
©WSP USA/NAOMI SETO
A 3D rendering of the modified shuttle station shows how it will look with the new center platform, two tracks, and the edge columns removed.
The study put NYCT on the right track to meet federal mandates to make the station ADA accessible. “The new and creative solutions we developed make all of NYCT’s desired improvements possible, and address all identified constraints, limitations and federal mandates,” he said.
The success of the study also led to WSP joining the NYCT design team for the next step in the process, providing final design for underground structural and geotechnical engineering. The final design was completed in 2018.
“The construction contract was awarded in March, and the contractor is mobilizing,” Grigoryan said. “WSP is looking forward to providing our engineering services during the construction phase of this process.”
Budgeted at a total cost of $230 million, completion of the reconfigured station is targeted for 2022.
WSP’s station design is helping NYCT by creating a Future Ready™ solution to a long-standing problem. By thinking beyond conventional approaches to transit and developing innovative ideas to overcome limitations with the existing framework, the new station will be constructed with minimal service disruption, and eventually improve flow and provide a more accommodating experience for all passengers who depend on this hub every day.
The American Council of Engineering Companies, New York Chapter (ACEC-NY) named the Times Square Shuttle Station study as a Diamond Award winner in the Studies, Research and Consulting Engineering Services category. The Diamond Award qualified the project for the ACEC national 2019 Engineering Excellence Grand Award competition. The project won ACEC National Grand Award.
“This is one of the highest awards in the engineering field and highlights our firm’s significant contributions to the profession and to the community,” Grigoryan said. “It recognizes our creative technical skills and expertise in underground engineering.”
The ACEC awards program recognizes projects across the U.S. that demonstrate the highest degree of achievement, value and ingenuity. The Grand Award qualified the study as a finalist for the ACEC national Grand Conceptor award.
Grigoryan views the award as recognition of an effort that paves the way for significant improvements to a long-standing problem.
“It is satisfying that NYCT had confidence that we would be able to find solutions to numerous challenges associated with long-standing and necessary improvements at the busiest subway station complex in NYC,” Grigoryan said.
The new and creative solutions developed during this study made the desired improvements possible, expanded NYCT’s options, and allowed NYCT to further improve and expand the modifications. He called it an outstanding example of how a public agency can honor its commitment to serve the best interests of its community.
“It is a great feeling that, because of our successful study, funding was secured, so that in 2016 the project was expeditiously advanced from study level to final design,” Grigoryan said. “NYCT was genuinely interested in improving the station and I believe the study ultimately exceeded their expectations. The results of this study will significantly improve the Times Square Shuttle Station operations and passenger experience.”
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