Today’s news:

East meets west

The 100−foot long tunnel below Willoughby Street linking two sets of subway lines from across Brooklyn would do Indiana Jones proud — except workers found no lost tomb or buried treasure when digging it.

The four−year project linking the A, F, and C lines at Jay Street Borough Hall to the R, N and M lines at Lawrence Street is on schedule for completion by March 2011.

In an exclusive walk−through of the $108.8 million project, this newspaper found that the entrance from the Jay Street⁄Borough Hall stop to the MetroTech complex at Myrtle and Jay streets is set to open at the end of this month.

The project has also caused rerouting of trains on weekends at Jay Street⁄Borough Hall and a traffic nightmare along Willoughby Street between Jay and Lawrence streets.

“The entire tunnel had to be hand dug because every utility in the world is buried down here,” said Project Manager Talib Lokhandwala, pointing to exposed pipes and wiring throughout the tunnel.

In order to dig out the tunnel, work crews had to first complete underpinnings of the building on the north and south side of Willoughby Street as well as place metal decking over the street to maintain vehicular traffic and access to shops on the street while work is ongoing in the tunnel underground.

While the digging of the tunnel is complete, workers now have to frame it with steel I−beams. All the materials are made in America.

The work also includes two 60−foot escalators − one going up and the other down − at the Lawrence Street station that will connect to the tunnel to Jay Street.

The Jay Street station will have three elevators, one from the street level to the mezzanine, and two on the mezzanine level— one going to the Manhattan bound platform and the other to the Brooklyn−bound platform.

One master “brain room” at an undisclosed location controls all the escalators and elevators in the entire MTA system, Lokhandwala said.

The project will also see the rehabilitation of both subway stations, including the widening of stairwells and platforms and accessibility for the disabled.

The master subway hub will also have new signage, floor, wall and ceiling finishes and lighting. One percent of the project cost will also go to the Arts for Transit program at the stops.

Lokhandwala said there is an average of about 60 people working on the project daily and the number doubles to about 120 on weekends, because the MTA reroutes trains around the Jay Street station.

Jay Street⁄Borough Hall is a major subway station and the work could be completed a lot sooner, but to do that would mean shutting down the subway stations until the work is completed, he said.

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