NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Trains are officially running on the long-awaited Second Avenue subway line under the Upper East Side.

Three new stations opened to the public at noon Sunday. The first train left the station at East 96th Street after a speech by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed to meet a New Year’s Day deadline for the long-delayed project.

“I hope when you go down there you really feel how much hard work and time and patience it’s taken to get to this point,” Cuomo said. “It’s incredible. This is not your grandfather’s station.”


The nearly 2-mile segment adds stations along Second Avenue at 96th, 86th and 72nd streets and connects them to a different subway line at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue.

“Always lived near Second Avenue. Been waiting for this for a long time,” said commuter Morgan Perry. “So exciting!”

It’s expected to carry about 200,000 riders daily and is seen as crucial to alleviating congestion in the city’s subway system.

The mood was festive on the first train, with many riders wearing hats that read Second Avenue Station, including Jessica Hauser and her boyfriend, Neil Smith, who both live on the Upper East Side.

“I can see my friends in Brooklyn much easier now,” Hauser said. “It’s really great to have another subway nearby. I think it’s going to release a lot of pressure from the 4, 5 and 6 trains. Especially in the morning when I have to sometimes wait for a second or third train, since they’re so packed.”

 

Kaz Tanakh and her husband Mark Conrad added to the party atmosphere as hey waited up top to be let in for the inaugural ride.

“We’ve been waiting for this so long, so long,” Conrad told CBS2’s Dave Carlin.

A ceremonial first ride took place on Saturday night for an invitation-only crowd of dignitaries, about 90 minutes before the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square.

Cuomo said the new line is also an underground museum, calling it “the largest public art installation in New York’s history.”

The goal is to transform what is often a dreary, claustrophobic experience into something completely different, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

“Art and architecture make this city vibrant,” said Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art.

The city’s transportation board first envisioned a Second Avenue subway in 1929, but the stock market crash and the Great Depression derailed the plan.

Ground was broken in 1972, but a fiscal crisis in the city slammed the brakes on the project again. The project finally got into high gear when major tunneling work began in 2007.

The $4.4 billion section opening Sunday was initially supposed to be completed in 2013. Delays stemmed partly from concerns about construction noise.

Next, the line is slated to expand north into East Harlem. No date has been set for starting that phase of construction.

CBS2 reported that there were some sporadic delays Sunday due to signal problems. The real test will come with the Monday morning rush hour.

Starting Monday through Jan. 8,  service will begin at 6 a.m. and run until 10 p.m. Twenty-four hour service starts on Jan. 9.

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