In what is being called a rather somber speech, Gov. David Paterson laid out the economic outlook for New York in his first State of the State address. While the state is tight on money and new projects are being pushed aside, Paterson stressed his commitment to a sound transit policy, pleasing MTA officials and firmly tossing the ball into the state legislature’s court.
While New York, like much of the U.S., is facing a budget, Paterson recognized yesterday that focusing on infrastructure investment and development is a sound way to build an economy stimulus plan. In his vision, the Ravitch Commission’s recommendations will become a reality, and the Second Ave. Subway will continue its journey down Manhattan.
“To build a brighter future, we need a smarter, better infrastructure,” he said. “We should complete signature projects all across our State including the Peace Bridge, the Tappan Zee Bridge, the Second Avenue Subway, and the East Side Access. And we should implement the Ravitch Commission recommendations to improve an essential piece of our infrastructure, the MTA.”
MTA officials, facing a March 25 drop-dead date for their Doomsday budget, expressed relief that the city’s top statesman is on their side. “I was delighted. The governor’s been great, in terms of supporting the MTA and called for the Ravitch Commission, MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot Sander said to NY’s Bobby Cuza: [I] just was thrilled that he mentioned it in the State of the State.”
More optimistic though is the growing support the plan seems to have from a few key Assembly members. Cuza reports:
The challenge now is winning the support of the legislature. The Ravitch recommendations include both new tolls on the East River bridges, and a new payroll tax. Assembly leaders said improvements to the plan can be made.
“There are controversial elements of it, but in the end, I think you’re going to see this legislature and this governor work to provide more money to save the fares on the trains, subways and buses, to make sure we build out the capital program of the MTA, so we have a good system 10 years from now,” said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester).
Clearly, there are controversial elements to it. Any plan designed to ensure the long-term health of a transit system through a dedicated and non-variable source is bound to have costs and controversies. At some point, some elected official besides Paterson will have to recognize that far more people are impacted by a bad MTA than East River Bridge tools and that the region depends on the MTA far more than it depends on free access to Manhattan via the East River crossings.
For now, the MTA has some big names lining up behind this recommendation, but time’s a-wastin’. We have 10 weeks until the MTA starts implementing service cuts and fare hikes. No one wants to see that happen, but will someone step up to lead the effort to save the beleaguered transit agency?