Why NYC Is Building This $185 Million "Tunnel to Nowhere"

Since it's right next to the largest private construction project NYC has ever seen, you could easily miss it: A 35-foot-deep trench being dug on Manhattan's West Side. It looks something like a grave, or an archaeological dig, but no—this is an 800-foot-long insurance plan for the future of the city.

In a report from the AP today, we get a glimpse of Amtrak's long-term plan to build another tunnel (or even two!) between New Jersey and New York City. So far, the only evidence of this plan is the great trench, currently taking shape on the West Side.

Why NYC Is Building This $185 Million "Tunnel to Nowhere"

Why only build part of a tunnel? The answer lies in the construction site surrounding the trench: This is the future home of Hudson Yards, a massive development that will eventually cover the area with multiple skyscrapers and other buildings. Digging a new train tunnel below all that would be a major challenge—so instead, Amtrak is doing it now and saving itself the trouble.

When Chris Christie cancelled the infamous $7.8 billion Access to the Region's Core project in 2010, it was unclear where and how the next tunnel between New York and New Jersey would be built. But the need for such a project was driven home by Hurricane Sandy, which flooded both existing tunnels and created massive delays for commuters. This new access tunnel, in fact, is being built with Hurricane Sandy relief money.

Why NYC Is Building This $185 Million "Tunnel to Nowhere"

For now, Amtrak only has the federal funds to build the access trench. Whether it'll ever see the billions needed to build the tunnels remains to be seen. But it seems inevitable, given how fast the development on the West Side is going. Who knows, these photos might just be a peek at NYC's next great transit boom. [AP]

Images: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews.