63 St Subway Extension Opened 25 Years Ago this Week

Twenty-five years ago, New York City’s subway system was emerging from the darkest period in its history.  By the late eighties, graffiti was giving way to clean trains, ridership was returning and the investments generated by the first two MTA Capital Programs were starting to have a major impact.

Some of that new investment included the construction of a new line as the MTA opened three new stations: 21 St--Queensbridge, Roosevelt Island and Lexington Av – 63 St and began running subway trains through the two-level rail tunnel, linking Manhattan and Queens. 

The 63rd Street Line was opened for service on October 29, 1989 originally served by Q Subway trains on weekdays and B Subway trains on weekends. The line reached a temporary terminus at the 21 St-Queensbridge station, but the three-station, 3.2 – mile route was extended 1,500 feet and, in 2001, connected to the busy Queens Boulevard corridor just south of the 36 St Station with the rerouting of F Subway service at all times to 63rd Street.

The 63rd Street Line will play a vital role once the Second Av Subway is completed.  The double-decked Lexington Av – 63 St Station will allow cross-platform interchange between the Q Subway and F Subway.  As part of the Second Av Subway project, the station is being renovated to remove the walls on the platforms and open a new entrance on the Third Avenue side of the station. East-bound trains to Queens (and later Upper Manhattan) will use the lower level; south-bound trains to Midtown and Lower Manhattan will use the upper level.

The 63rd Street Tube is also the linchpin of the East Side Access Project and while one level supports Queens Boulevard Line subway trains, the second level was designed and built for Long Island Rail Road operation and in the future will serve trains traveling between Queens and a new LIRR Terminal at Grand Central.

When LIRR service is routed through the tube, the facility will be unique in the MTA’s operation as one that supports both commuter rail and subway service.