Engineers Week 2006
By Gerard Hillenbrand, P.E.
The Annual Engineer’s Week Reception was held in the Dibner Library Building of Polytechnic University located in downtown Brooklyn on Thursday, February 23, 2006. The Metropolitan Engineering Societies Council, an umbrella group representing 25 Engineering organizations practicing in the New York City Metropolitan area, organizes this annual reception. This year’s event was distinguished by the support of ten prominent engineering and consulting organizations in New York City and their sponsorship is greatly appreciated by the organizing council.
This event was opened with a delicious dinner reception after which the attendees moved into the library’s auditorium for the official program. Mesc. Chairman Wasyl Kinach, P.E., welcomed all our guests and then introduced J. M. Hultin, president of Polytechnic University who spoke of the gathering storm confronting America’s Technical superiority because of the shortage of students choosing engineering as a career choice. He also summarized Polytechnic’s efforts at recruiting high school graduates and proposals for increased state and federal government aid for youngsters enrolled in engineering schools.
George Golovchenico, P.E., Mesc Programs Chair, then introduced Ms. Fatima Amer, P.E., Deputy Buildings Commissioner for Technical Affairs in N.Y. City, who presented Mayor Bloomberg’s proclamation denoting February 19-23 as engineers week in the city of New York. In her remarks, Ms. Amer described how the N.Y. City Buildings Department is being expanded and modernized with 40 Licensed P.E.’s newly hired in the past year. Also substantial progress is being made on the writing of the new International Buildings Code with final approval scheduled for December 2006. This new code will replace the existing 1968 code, which Polytechnic University had a prominent role in writing.
James Oussani, a representative of the Polytechnic Alumni Association, next welcomed guests once again and detailed his association’s contributions to the success of the evening’s activities, and proceeded to introduce Burton Dicht and Karen Holden who were representing the president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Mr. Dicht and Ms. Holden then presented certificates of achievement to five Mechanical Engineers who distinguished themselves during 35 and 25 years of career efforts. Certificates were also presented to two engineers who achieved special success in guiding the education of young engineers and perspective students. Lastly, a Polytechnic Professor (17 ½ Years Meritorious Teaching and Research Activity) was elected to the grade of Fellow in ASME. Among the more than 100,000 ASME Members, only 2600 have achieved this honor. All recipients expressed their gratitude to ASME and spoke laudably of the influence of engineering practice in their professional lives.
Greg Homatas, P.E., Mesc Member-At-Large, next introduced the evenings keynote speaker, Dilip I. Patel, P.E., Program Manager of MTA Capital Construction Company. The mission of this organization is the design and construction of mass transportation projects such as the East Side Access Project and the Second Avenue Subway. The East Side Access Project will bring the Long Island Railroad into Grand Central Terminal on the east side of Manhattan. This project also includes 3 ½ miles of new tunnel construction in Queens and Manhattan, new storage facilities in Queens, a new commuter train station in Queens in the vicinity of the existing Queens Boulevard Bridge, and a new terminal under Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. This project will provide the first major expansion of commuter rail capacity in 100 years, increase rail capacity under the East River by 50%, relieve congestion at Penn Station, and savings of 30 to 40 minutes of commuting time per day for LIRR passengers working on the east side of Manhattan. This project has been in the planning stages for years and its Environmental Impact Statement was completed in March 2001, approved locally in May 2001 and received Federal Transport Agency approval in February 2002. This project has a total budget of $6.3 Billion and a scheduled completion date of 2012.
The project consists of three basic sections:
- 5,500 Ft. long new tunnel in Queens from the LIRR main line, tracks, under AMTRAK’s Sunnyside yard and LIRR’s new yard A, and connecting to the existing 63rd St. Tunnel just beyond Northern Blvd.
- 8,600 Ft. long lower leve3l of the 63rd St. Tunnel from 41st St. in Queens to the existing bellmouth structure between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Manhattan.
- 7,200 Ft. long new tunnel west under 63rd St. and then turning south under Park Ave. and Metro North’s 4-track right of way and into a new terminal under Grand Central Terminal. This new terminal (91 Ft. below the existing lower level of GCT) will have upper and lower levels consisting of two tracks each with 27 Ft. wide, column free platforms connected by four escalators to a new concourse at the GCT lower level.
The Queens section presents some unusual construction difficulties. The Queens tunnel must be built under the rights of way of four operating railroads (The LIRR, AMTRAK, Jersey Transit, and the N.Y. and Atlantic Freight Railway) handling 740 trains per day without delays or interruptions. This new tunnel must be constructed to pass under Northern Blvd, under the elevated trains east of Queens Plaza, and under the IND Subway under Northern Blvd. This new tunnel will be built inside a concrete semi-circular enclosure anchored into the solid rock at its ends. This Northern Blvd. Facility will include the necessary emergency exits and ventilation structures located near the existing N.Y.C. Transit Ventilation Plant. This new tunnel construction and underpinning at Northern Blvd. is expected to cost $200 Million.
Although not generally known to the public, a number of construction contracts related to this project have already been completed or are currently being worked on. These include:
- $91.4 Million Metro North Train Storage Yard at Highbridge in the Bronx. This facility built on former freight yard and recently completed, will free up lay-up tracks at GCT for LIRR use.
- $82.0 Million Arch Street yard and storage facility at Hunt’s Point in Queens. This unit built on obsolete freight tracks and also recently completed, is visible from the No. 7 subway train as it transitions from subway to elevated tracks at Hunt’s Point.
- $19.0 Million bellmouth structure and slurry wall just beyond Northern Blvd. in Queens connecting the future LIRR tunnel to the existing lower level of the 63rd St. tunnel next to the NYC Transit Ventilation Plant.
- $5.65 Million Reed Building and LIRR rail yard on the site of the abandoned Conrail freight tracks west of Sunnyside yards.
- $3.08 Million Environmental Remediation and Clean-up of obsolete AMTRAK Facilities, including demolition of abandoned buildings.
- $17.12 Million switch exchange and new track construction prior to tunnel construction in Queens.
- $12.12 Million rail connection form LIRR main line to the Arch Street Yard. This contract currently under construction, includes the new track signals required at Harold Interlocking as well as new switching and signal controls at Wood interlocking south of the Woodside station.
- $58.0 Million upgrade to 6 lay-up tracks at GCT with conversion to LIRR electrical power requirements.
- $9.9 Million tunnel excavation in Manhattan beyond 2nd Ave. under 63rd St. This preliminary tunneling will test and establish noise and vibration standards for the eventual tunnel boring into GCT.
The Tunnel Boring Machines successfully used in building N.Y. city 3rd water tunnel and the Alpine Tunnel in Europe will perform the tunneling in Queens and Manhattan. These machines create a tunnel of 21 Ft.-6 inch in diameter and the excavations are then lined with pre-cast concrete casings. Boring speeds may vary between 50 and 120 Ft. per day depending on geological conditions. Blasting will be kept to a minimum and only used when absolutely necessary. The boring routes will be quite complicated since plans call for three tracks leading into the Queens tunnel, and then converging into the existing two-track tunnel under the East River and proceeding to Park Avenue where the tunneling turns south and expands from two to four tracks, tow on each level ant GCT. Complicated switching requirements will mean even move complex tunneling in Manhattan. The tunnel construction is awaiting an appropriation of $2.1 Billion form the Federal Government before commencing. This funding has been promised and MTA officials are confident that it will be received in the near future.
This meeting was concluded with the usual question and answer period, after which the guests were treated to coffee and deserts compliments of the Polytechnic Alumni Association. Approximately 100 guests attended this meeting and about 35 attending engineers applied for and received on professional development hour of credit toward their continuing education requirements recently mandated by the N.Y. state education department. Yes, Engineers, more than ever, continue to make a world of a difference!!