Long before he took office, New York’s new governor, Eliot Spitzer, had championed capital construction projects aimed toward improving the state’s transportation infrastructure. High on that list of priorities was the Second Ave. subway.
Even at such an early stage, the funding for Spitzer’s goals was far from assured. Upstate representatives to Albany were concerned about funneling so much into a city-centric agency such as the MTA, and the billions of dollars needed to complete the first stage of the Second Ave. subway and the Grand Central-LIRR link were never going to be easy to find.
Now, just a few weeks into Spitzer’s term as governor, the financial outlook for these projects does not look too rosy. In fact, to survive the cutting board, Spitzer may need to step in and deliver the big bucks for the MTA because the MTA’s debt problem may mean yet another postponement for these much-needed projects. The Times Ledger reports:
The problem is that the MTA’s capital program, which runs through 2009 is running over budget by at least $1.4 billion, according to a report first published by the New York Times. As result of heavy borrowing, the MTA faces years of enormous debt starting next year.
The $21 billion program is supposed to provide for not only what the MTA calls its mega projects Ð the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal but also the purchase of hundreds of new rail cars and the improvement of signal systems and other subway equipment.
Accordingly, Elliott Sander, the new executive director and CEO of the MTA, will do what heads of bureaucracies do best: appoint a committee. After last week’s The Times’ report, Sander decided to investigate the claims made concerning the MTA’s financials. While he and MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow are skeptical of the alleged $1.4 billion overrun, Sander did note that some of the bigger projects could be put on the back burner while routine maintenance demands are met.
For those in New York who have been waiting decades for the Second Ave. subway, it would come as no surprise if this project is delayed yet again. But with the federal government kicking in some money for the Second Ave. subway, I would be surprised to see this new subway delayed yet again. Optimism may reign supreme in hoping for the arrival of a subway line 70 years in the planning.