LETTER: Delayed and Costly Transit Projects

To the Editor:

Reopening of the old Cortlandt Street Subway Station doesn't make up for the fact that subway riders had to wait seventeen years after 9/11 for it to be rebuilt. The Port Authority & Metropolitan Transportation Authority fought for years over budget, funding sources, scope and schedule. Construction for the MTA portion of the project only began last year.

Remember the reopening of the new South Ferry Station in June 2017 for a second time after Superstorm Sandy in 2012? Even though the original South Ferry Station suffered minor structural damage as a result of 9/11, Uncle Sam still provided $545 million in 9/11 emergency recovery funding to build a new station at an adjacent site. As part of the MTA Twenty Year Capital Needs Assessment Plan, the MTA had always intended to upgrade this station with their own funds. (The original station was built in 1905 and could only platform five cars instead of the standard ten.) Due to major damage as a result of Superstorm Sandy, the Federal Transit Administration provided an additional $344 million of taxpayer money. This time from the Superstorm Sandy Disaster Relief Act. These federal funds were supplemented by millions more in insurance proceeds from the MTA. It took five years to complete this project.

Remember the Fulton Street Transit Center project? The original start date was 2003, with a completion date of 2007. At $1.4 billion, the final cost ended up $650 million higher than the original $750 million. The FTA first provided $847 million in Lower Manhattan 9/11 Recovery funding. This was supplemented by $423 million in American Recovery Reinvestment Act funding to assist in covering cost overruns.

The new Port Authority PATH World Trade Center Station had an original start date of 2003 with a completion date of 2009 at a cost of $2 billion. The Port Authority subsequently signed a construction agreement with the FTA. This made up to $2.2 billion in federal funding available for the World Trade Center permanent new PATH Terminal.

The grant agreement between the Port Authority and FTA was awarded in December 2003. It included a commitment to start construction in 2006 with completion by June, 2011. Most construction was completed five years later, in 2016 and at $4 billion, the cost was double the original $2 billion. The FTA provided $1.9 billion. No one should be proud of the project delays and major cost overruns. Opening of the corridor linking NYC Transit E train to the World Trade Center after 9/11 also took sixteen years!

Two years ago, talk began to extend the #1 subway from the Rector Street downtown Manhattan station to Red Hook Brooklyn for $3.5 billion. This would consist of a tunnel and three new stations. This subway extension would support a new proposed Red Hook economic development project. Was this $3.5 billion figure written on the back of a napkin? Two years later, there still isn't even a planning feasibility study, let alone any environmental documents or preliminary design.

Taxpayers and commuters deserve better.

— Larry Penner

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.)