Home 7 Line Extension Report: 7 line costs ‘trending above’ budget

Report: 7 line costs ‘trending above’ budget

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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19 comments

Marc Shepherd April 7, 2010 - 12:58 pm

What a surprise: an MTA project above budget!

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EC April 7, 2010 - 3:10 pm

When it comes to 7 extension, this blog sounds a lot like people in Los Angeles before the red line was built.

No one will use it.

Its a waste of money.

Nothing will ever be built there.

We should shelve it etc.

I recommend anyone look up how the red line is doing now.

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Benjamin Kabak April 7, 2010 - 3:13 pm

There’s a significant difference between the entire red line and a one-stop 1.5-mile subway extension that costs $2.1 billion. Do I need to get into it any further?

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Aaron April 7, 2010 - 3:16 pm

Nothing will ever be built… where? Where did the Red Line go (except maybe NoHo) where it was slated to boost development? The argument against the Red Line, however misguided, was that Los Angeles was a fundamentally anti-transit city.

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John April 7, 2010 - 3:59 pm

Which is kind of a Catch 22, because they were “anti-transit” because they didn’t HAVE much transit.

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Al D April 7, 2010 - 3:21 pm

The 7 extension would be countless times more useful if a station at 10 & 41 were built.

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Jerrold April 7, 2010 - 3:30 pm

Al, that’s what everybody(except the MTA and Bloomberg) has been correctly saying all along.

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Andrew April 7, 2010 - 9:58 pm

I don’t think the MTA disagrees. The arrangement with the MTA, though, was that the city would pay the full cost; that means that the MTA isn’t going to suddenly jump in and pay for an intermediate station, as desirable as it may be.

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Alon Levy April 8, 2010 - 4:16 pm

Dude, the Red Line follows LA’s two busiest bus corridors, and serves some of the densest neighborhoods as well as the retail centers. The 7 extension is nothing. It’s like extending the Red Line to Palmdale hoping it’ll lead to TOD there.

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Boris April 7, 2010 - 4:08 pm

You can give Mayor Bloomberg and the EDC some credit for preferring suburban-style malls over transit-oriented development. With malls, a large chunk of transportation costs are paid by the private sector (parking spaces, automobiles). With the 7 train extension, how much are the Hudson Yards developers chipping in for transit to their door?

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Jerrold April 7, 2010 - 5:34 pm

When it comes to cars versus transit, let’s remember that there are a great many people who are too old to drive, too young to drive, too poor to drive, or too handicapped to drive.
Personally, I am in two of those categories (the latter two.)

In many parts of this country, if you can’t drive, you are treated as not even worth worrying about.

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Think twice April 7, 2010 - 7:02 pm

“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.”

True. There is no big-picture vision, no 100 year blueprint to follow. Lately I’ve been coming across documents from the Rapid Transit Commission and Public Service Commission that were scanned into Google Books. Even though they had yet to get the money to build routes like these, they still had the foresight and planning to create the foundations of a robust and comprehensive system when the monies would come.

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Rhywun April 7, 2010 - 10:30 pm

So what does it mean that “a station shell that would allow for future expansion” won’t be built? Does it actually *prevent* any station from ever being built there (similar to the cheapening of the SAS whereby express tracks can never be built) or can a station be squeezed in some day?

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Marc Shepherd April 8, 2010 - 10:32 am

Strictly speaking, the omission of a station shell does not prevent it from being built in the future. With sufficient funds, you can build anything. But the complexity and cost are such that, as a practical matter, the chances of it happening are nearly zero. You won’t find many examples of underground stations being added in the middle of an existing line, if it wasn’t provided for in the first place.

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Jay April 9, 2010 - 7:26 am

The only station i can think of that was built on an existing line is the west side IRT 191 Street station. They just carved that one right out of the bedrock.

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Walter Sobchak April 8, 2010 - 12:16 am

Maybe Bloomie himself can just cover the overruns and in thanks we can call it the Bloomberg Line? He did say he wants to be a philanthropist when he finally stops playing mayor.

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Think twice April 8, 2010 - 10:43 am

“Maybe Bloomie himself can just cover the overruns…”

After reading Ben’s post I seriously thought the same thing.

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Alon Levy April 8, 2010 - 3:52 pm

Remember that this line could come in at 50% under budget and it would still be more expensive than any subway built outside New York.

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Why a Monorail is Better than a Streetcar — Greater City: Providence September 17, 2010 - 12:11 am

[…] for years. The mile long #7 extension with just one station will cost over $2 billion. [#7 Line Costs] With Providence’s experience with the sewer tunnel, costs would likely be lower than New York, […]

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