2nd Ave. Subway Tunnel Dig Begins

Next stop, 86th street.

One of the nation's biggest -- and most famously delayed -- construction projects-- took a major turn today as the MTA's Tunnel Boring Machine cranked into use at the Second Avenue Subway.

"There's nothing boring about it," quipped Manhattan City Council member Dan Garodnick.

The nearly 500-ton TBM churned towards the rock just south of 96th street, which is slated to become the first station when the Upper East Side line opens in 2017.

MTA Chairman Jay Walder sounded an air horn to cue the team of sandhogs to get the motor running.

"The thought when I started my career in '83 that we could be standing here today is beyond something anyone could have believed," said Walder.

The TBM blasts through about 50 feet of rock per day, meaning the dig to 63rd Street and back is scheduled to be done in January.

The $4.5 billion project is mostly paid for with federal funds.

U.S. Rep Carolyn Maloney rebutted that criticism money would be better spent on the MTA's whopping budget deficit.

"Cutting anything with this subway would cost us far more than we gain," she said. "Over 16,000 New Yorkers are employed on this project alone."

"The important statistic for this project," said Walder, "is that 50 percent more people are riding the subway than 15 years ago. That's people voting with their feet."

But enough with the technical statistics, on a touching personal note, the Second Avenue subway project's Chief Engineer Michael Horodniceanu, named the Tunnel Boring Machine after his two-year-old granddaughter Adi.

"In my view appropriately named, because she's the future. And this is the future of New York," Horodniceanu told NBCNewYork.

Meanwhile, sandhog Jason McCormick has heard about the project since he was a kid.

"My grandfather, when he came back from World War Two actually voted to have the Second Avenue Subway put in," said McCormick. "That was in the 50's here we are in 2010 and we haven't started mining. What does that tell you?"

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