Today’s news:

MTA begins digging No. 7 subway extension

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Manhattan’s Far West Side a place “full of promise” as a gigantic boring machine was lowered into place for the No. 7 train extension, the first city subway expansion project in half a century.

“We’re beginning the next and most dramatic phase of the extension of the No. 7 line,” Bloomberg went on Feb. 19. “By digging these tunnels, we’re expanding our subway network into an entirely new area of the city.”

“It’s these major, long−term investments in infrastructure that will transform areas full of promise into neighborhoods full of residents, park−goers, office workers and shoppers,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg, along with other city and state officials, spoke at a ceremony at 11th Avenue and 26th Street above the excavation where the massive boring machine, the first of two such machines, is to begin the project in early April.

Two 7,100−foot tunnels are scheduled for completion by spring 2010 and the new service is scheduled to begin in December 2013.

The No. 7 extension is the first expansion of any city subway in more than a half−century, and the $2.1 billion cost — to be paid from sales of bonds — will be paid by the city, but operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The extension will run from Times Square to 34th Street and 11th Avenue at the Javits Convention Center. A station at 41st Street and 10th Avenue was scrapped last year because of cost.

The No. 7 extension tunnel will run beneath the Eighth Avenue subway line, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit tunnels, the former New York Central Railroad line, the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority bus terminal ramps.

The Bloomberg administration agenda has long advocated redevelopment of the Hell’s Kitchen area, running from 14th Street to 52nd Street, which developers named Clinton.

A plan to build a stadium in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan’s last undeveloped area, fell through, but developers still hope to build mini−parks, upscale housing and cultural facilities along with business towers.

The No. 7 line runs from the Flushing−Main Street station in Queens to Times Square in Manhattan.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e−mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 136.

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