The first phase of the Second Avenue subway in New York City is set to open in December 2016 after more than 80 years of planning. Members of the Upper East Side community toured the construction of the tunnels and platforms underground, the first phase of which is more than 86% complete and will run as an extension of the Q line from 96th St to 63rd St.

The Second Avenue subway construction project began in 2007. Tunnelling for the new subway line has caused traffic congestion, closed pavements to pedestrians and has created noise pollution for most of the people who live and work in the area.

Dr Michael Horodniceanu, MTA Capital Construction president, organises monthly tours for Upper East Side residents directly impacted by the construction so they can have a better understanding of what goes on underground.

"The only thing that they are seeing is the fact that we are impacting them on the street level," he said. "So by seeing what we did underground, it helped us and also get a message through that what we're doing is very positive, we're building history and they are part of the history."

The first phase of this subway, at a cost of $4.5bn (£2.9bn) was first proposed in the 1920s and was cancelled three times due to different cash crunches. After taking the tour, community members said they were impressed with the work.

"You realise how close we are to getting this major addition to the transportation system ready for New York," Charles Fiori said. "The work that's already in place is incredible, it's extraordinary. It's like nothing I've ever seen."

"It's very complicated down there, very intense the way it's going up but it's going to be nice to have a subway close by," Irwin Hosea said.

"It's an adventure, something to cross off, as they say, the bucket list," added Kate Green. "It's something I've never done. I've see Christ of the Andes in Sao Paulo, taken a Ferris wheel ride at Coney Island and this is something that's once in a lifetime. It'll never happen again to be able to walk in a construction zone on the track of a New York City subway, legally."

If funds are approved for phase 2, which will run from 125th to 96th Street, construction is expected to start in 2019. The fully complete Second Avenue line is expected to run from 125th St to Hanover Square.