When looking at the east coast (specifically the mid Atlantic and New England) it’s no surprise to hear the lion’s share of the work is coming out of New York. Several projects are currently being undertaken—East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway and Seven Line extension—and of course there is whatever may come of options being weighed up for last year’s cancelled ARC tunnel.

“Certainly New York has been, for the past decade or so, the center of that tunneling. But most of the big contracts in New York for tunneling are pretty much out and bid,” says Greg Kelly, president of infrastructure at Parson Brinckerhoff.

From his perspective, the market on the east coast is steady, but not growing because clients face funding limitations. “That’s not to say there is not a demand there,” explains Kelly, who later adds that work is never complete in New York. “There is always a market in New York,” he says.

Earlier this year, a joint venture of Schiavone, Shea and Skanska (S3) finished the first of two bores for the Second Avenue Subway’s Phase One. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has divided work on the two-track, 8.5mi (13.7km) line running below Second Avenue into four phases, some of will make use of existing tunnels that were built during previous attempts to fund and construct the project. Running north to south along the city’s eastside from 125th Street in Harlem to Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan, there will be 16 new stations upon completion. Phase One construction includes new stations at 96th, 86th and 72nd Streets, and new entrances to the existing Lexington Avenue/63 Street Station at 63rd Street.

Nearby, the East Side Access project will connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Station. This project sees work in both Queens and Manhattan as it completes tunnels either side of a 2.6km long existing stretch at 63rd Street—work that was stalled in the 1970s because of a lack of funding. A Dragados/Judlau joint venture is constructing the 2.2km Manhattan Approach Tunnels and caverns beneath Grand Central Station. On the Queens side of the project, a JV of Granite Construction Northeast, Traylor Bros and Frontier-Kemper secured a contract to build 3.2km of tunnels using slurry TBMs.

Elsewhere in New York, tunneling finished last summer for the Seven Line’s 2km twin tunnel extension from Times Square Station to a new station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue. The project is on track to be operational by December 2013.

The Seven Line extension project has caught the attention of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in the wake of New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s decision to cancel the USD 8.7bn Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunnel in October 2010. Citing concerns over potential cost overruns, the governor had suspended the project in September 2010 and subsequently called it off after US transportation secretary Ray LaHood offered different funding options.

The New York City Economic Development Corp. voted on 2 February to authorize Parsons Brinckerhoff to conduct a study assessing the feasibility of extending the Seven Line to Secaucus, New Jersey. The three-month contract is worth USD 250,000. This could be significantly cheaper than the ARC tunnel because underground work on the Manhattan side of a connection will have already been constructed for the current Seven Line extension. Just days later on 7 February, Amtrak announced it will spend USD 50M to begin preliminary engineering and design for the Gateway Project: two new trans-Hudson rail tunnels from Penn Station in Newark, New Jersey to an expansion at Penn Station in New York. According to Amtrak, the entire Gateway Project (which includes replacement and expansion of the Portal Bridge in New Jersey) could be completed in 2020 at an estimated cost of USD 13.5bn.

Meanwhile, the federal government had already provided USD 271M for work completed on the ARC tunnel project before its cancellation, and sent a bill to the state of New Jersey, which has retained Washington D.C.-based law firm Patton Boggs to fight the debt.

But the five boroughs aren’t the only source of demand for the tunneling industry in this part of North America. The northeast has its fair share of CSO regulations to meet and commuters looking to travel easily at home and throughout the region.

In Hartford, Connecticut, the Metropolitan District is tendering the contract for final design of the 13,500ft (4,100m) South Hartford Conveyance and Storage Tunnel. This is part of a total 26,250ft (8,000m) of tunneling and microtunneling for the city’s Clean Water Project. The USD 1.6bn program will meet state and federal consent decrees for sanitary and combined sewer overflows (SSOs and CSOs) by 2020.

Before the end of the year, work should kick off on Phase II of the Narragansett Bay Commission’s CSO projects in Rhode Island: The 19,150ft (5.83km) Woonasquatucket Interceptor and the 11,200ft (3.41km) Seekonk Interceptor. Final design is in approval now with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The commission anticipates bidding the various components of Phase II beginning this spring, with notices to proceed later in the summer and early fall. The final components should go to construction in mid-late 2012.

CSO projects will also make use of tunneling in Washington D.C., specifically a deep tunnel system as part of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority’s USD 2.6bn Clean Rivers Project. Four main tunnels, for a combined length of 12.8 miles (20.6km), will be built before 2025. Tunnels will be on average 23ft (7m) in diameter, built between 100 and 120ft (30.5 and 36.6m) below ground.

Construction should start on the 23,600ft (7.2km) Blue Plains Tunnel this summer, once the design-build contractor is announced this spring. The second tunnel project, the 12,500ft (3.8km) Anacostia Tunnel, should start in November 2013. The remaining Northeast Boundary Tunnel and Northeast Boundary Branch Tunnels are scheduled to see construction in 2021 and 2018 respectively.

Elsewhere in D.C. tunneling is required for transportation needs such as the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, a 23-mile extension. Dulles Transit Partners (Bechtel and URS) is delivering Phase 1, which is primarily a surface level or elevated solution, but includes a 2,400ft tunnel that will connect two Metro stations in Tysons Corner. Tunnel construction began in October 2009, and mining completed in both the inbound and outbound tunnels by the end of 2010. Spray concrete and other final works for the tunnels of Phase One are expected to complete this year. Preliminary Engineering is underway for Phase Two, which will include a tunnel beneath Dulles International Airport, and will finish in 2011.

Other cities and metropolitan communities in the region face the same drivers as New York, just on a smaller scale, explains Kelly. “On the east coast there are some other activities out there, but you have to add all those up to come close to the amount of work that’s going in New York now,” he says.

But with President Obama’s initiative to build a high-speed rail network, areas outside of New York may be poised to at least keep up. The northeast stands to gain from a recent trend of new Republican governors turning down federal funding for high-speed rail. Following the decision of governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio, who turned down a combined USD 1.195bn before either even took office, Florida governor Rick Scott turned down USD 2.4bn for the high-speed rail line that would connect Orlando-Tampa.

Elected officials from states in the northeast, and California, contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation. Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, for example, requested the money go for projects including replacement of the B&P Tunnel (Baltimore and Potomac)—leaving the agency to announce it will rebid the Florida funds.

New York City’s East Side Access project The No. 7 Line extension