Eventually, this cavern will be the new terminus for the 7 train at 34th St. and 11th Ave. (Photo courtesy of MTA Capital Construction)
As the Tunnel Boring Machines continue their march toward 41st St. and 8th Ave., the 7 line extension is slowly, slowly taking shape. Yet, this city-funded subway extension, built for the benefit of real estate developers along Manhattan’s final frontier on the Far West Side, may be facing another hiccup. According to a report in the Daily News this morning, engineers are concerned that costs are exceeding the budget, and still no one knows who will pay for the overruns.
For this tortured project that may not be the best use of city subway construction funds, cost overruns have continually been a thorn in its side. Due to an increasing price tag, planners had to shelve plans to build a badly-needed station at 41st and 10th Ave., and even a station shell that would allow for future expansion was deemed too costly. We witnessed a shocking lack of planning for the future, a problem that has plagued the New York City subways for the better part of eight decades.
Today, the problem is one of rising costs and a budget set years ago. According to a report from the engineering firm McKissack + Delcan, costs are “trending above” the $2.1 billion budget for the 7 line extension. The Daily News says that “costs are rising partly because it is taking longer than anticipated to obtain easements and title to property needed for ventilation, signal, communications and other systems.” Pete Donohue has more:
The consulting firm hasn’t determined the size of the developing deficit, but Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) called the situation a “huge, unresolved mess.”
“The MTA is looking at a project no one has the money to complete,” Brodsky said. “The city’s broke. The state’s broke. The MTA’s broke.”
The 1.5-mile extension – from Times Square to 34th St. and 11th Ave. – wasn’t in the MTA’s plans, but was sought by Mayor Bloomberg to spur development. In September 2006, the MTA agreed to build it after City Hall pledged up to $2.1 billion for construction. City and transit officials never signed an agreement fixing responsibility for cost overruns. At the time, some transit advocates and officials feared the MTA would wind up diverting money from more worthwhile projects to the No. 7 line extension.
Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Bloomberg, said yesterday, “If it becomes clear at some point that overruns are unavoidable, we’ll address how they would be covered then.”
For now, the MTA’s official documents list the project as on budget, and that won’t change until the authority’s own internal assessments are complete. Clearly, those this is bad news. The city is broke; the MTA is broke; and only, say, a stimulus grant at this point could close the budget gap.
Meanwhile, as West Side developers call for the station at 41st and 10th Ave., the MTA could soon face a funding crisis for Mayor Bloomberg’s pet subway project. The authority shouldn’t be expected to pick up the overruns, and if one capital project has to be delayed until the money is there, it should be this one. It is, arguable, the worst use of $2.1 billion one would find in the city today.