At a recent meeting at the White House, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a case to President Trump for billions in additional federal assistance. This was dishonest and misleading. Albany faces a $12 billion deficit this year. Cuomo’s claim of needing $64 billion to maintain essential state services represented a potential shortfall over four years. The $29 billion Gateway Tunnel, $6.9 billion Second Avenue Subway Phase 2 and $2 billion LaGuardia Air Train are not “shovel ready” as Cuomo said.
Only the $1.6 billion Portal Bridge (a key facility on the Northeast Corridor used by both New Jersey Transit and Amtrak between Trenton and Manhattan) is shovel ready. It is one component of the Gateway Tunnel. It consists of a new Hudson River Tunnel that would provide additional access to Penn Station for New Jersey Transit & Amtrak, rehabilitation of two existing tunnels badly damaged by Super Storm Sandy in 2012 and Portal Bridge along with expansion of Penn Station tracks, platforms and concourses to increase capacity. Work on the Portal Bridge could begin within months after completion of a procurement process for hiring of a construction contractor, followed by a formal Notice to Proceed.
The LaGuardia Air train will not complete the federal NEPA environmental review process until 2021. The Federal Aviation Administration needs to issue a formal finding for conclusion of the NEPA process. Another year is needed for completion of final design and engineering before construction contracts can be advertised and awarded followed by a notice to proceed to the contractor in late 2022 or early 2023. The LaGuardia Air Train would provide a new connection from LaGuardia Airport via the Air Train to both the Long Island Rail Road Port Washington branch and New York City Transit’s No. 7 Flushing Subway Willets Point stations. Riders would have to transfer from the Air Train to either the LIRR or subway and continue their journey before reaching Midtown Manhattan.
Second Avenue Subway Phase 2 completed the federal NEPA environmental review process with a positive finding from the Federal Transit Administration in 2019. This would extend NYC Transit subway service north along Second Avenue from the existing 96th Street Second Avenue Station to 125th Street. Three new stations will be constructed at 106th Street, 116th Street and 125th Street. A transfer will also be available to the Lexington Avenue subway and an intermodal connection with Metro North Rail Road would be available at the Harlem–125th Street station.
According to the FTA February 2020 New Starts report for federal fiscal year 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020 – Sept. 30, 2021), the MTA anticipates approval to enter final design and engineering this year. This would be followed with receipt of a Full Funding Grant Agreement from the Federal Transit Administration before the end of 2020. This might provide up to $3.5 billion in federal dollars toward the $6.9 billion total cost. It is unrealistic to assume entering final design and engineering followed by obtaining approval of an FFGA from FTA within the same year with less than seven months remaining.
Second Avenue Subway Phase Two still needs one to two more years for completion of design, engineering, business relocation, real estate acquisition and private property easement rights. There is also the need for agreements with New York City and various owners of underground utilities, including water, sewer, gas, electric, steam and cable before being ready to commence construction in 2022. Successful completion of these agreements can range from many months up to a year or two.
Cuomo’s presentation for all four requests for billions in additional financial assistance from Washington had more holes in it than a slice of Swiss Cheese.