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Why It Was Faster To Build Subways in 1900

Why It Was Faster To Build Subways in 1900 Atlas Obscura


The system’s groundbreaking actually happened two days later and over a mile away on Bleecker Street, when chief engineer William Barclay Parsons drove a pickaxe into the ground. 

The image of a single engineer wielding a piece of technology no more sophisticated than a hammer isn’t what most people have in mind when they think of modern infrastructure projects. But it may be the fastest technology available to New Yorkers, even now—especially now, as the Second Avenue subway, a project that began planning in the 1910s, has been under construction since 2007, is not yet open. By contrast, workers laid over 9 miles of track across Manhattan in only four years after initial groundbreaking. “The fact that we still don’t have a subway under Second Avenue is kind of amazing,” says Polly Desjarlais, a senior educator at the New York Transit Museum.

So if we could build a new subway line in four years back in the early 1900s, why is the Second Avenue line taking so long? Why are we still using so much infrastructure that's more than 100 years old? What has changed in the last hundred or so years for the subway?

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I think the short answer is there's a whole lot more stuff in the way now.

There's a whole lot more RULES and REGULATIONS in the way now, if that's what you mean.

I meant buildings but I like your interpretation better. 

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