Early this morning at the New York Law School, Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, president of the MTA’s Capital Construction division, spoke to a crowded room gobbling up their fruit slices and free croissants on the state of the MTA’s expansion efforts. For anyone whose been reading my site over the past few years, Horodniceanu’s presentation featured little new information. He spoke about the costs, complexities and challenges of the various big-ticket items and discussed how the MTA generates more construction jobs in the New York City area than anyone else.
Yet, despite the rather basic nature of the presentation, Horodniceanu let slip a few hints that this round of construction might be the last we see of transit expansion in and around the city, barring an unforeseen financial windfall anywhere. While speaking of the Second Ave. Subway, Horodniceanu discussed the impact Phase 1 will have and how the MTA is using the preexisting sections north of 99th St. as tail tracks. Of the future phases, he was less optimistic. “Sections two, three and four will be for our children or grandchildren,” he said with a sigh.
Later, during the Q-and-A when an audience member asked about the immediate future of the plans to extend the 7 line to Secaucus, Horodniceanu nearly dismissed it out of hand. He spoke of the engineering studies the city — not the MTA — is currently conducting but said point blank that the money isn’t there. It’s not there from the feds; it’s not there from the states of New York or New Jersey; it’s not there from the MTA. The only place I could imagine funding such a rail line would be the Port Authority, and they’re currently tapped out.
On the one hand, Horodniceanu is being politically practical here. The state hasn’t even figured out how to fund the current MTA capital plan, let alone any future ones. Why should we consider Phases 2 or 3 of the Second Ave. Subway if Phase 1 still won’t be completed for another five years? But on the other hand, Horodniceanu’s words are a bit discouraging. If transportation expansion and investment funds start to dry up by 2016, the city will likely faced stagnant growth and decaying infrastructure.
What also struck me about Horodniceanu’s words was how foolish it was to flat-out cancel the ARC Tunnel project. We’re reminded on a near-daily basis that the region is in desperate need of more trans-Hudson rail connections, and we were enjoying the perfect storm of funding, construction work and planning that would have produced ARC. Instead of reworking the project or trying to identify cost savings, Gov. Chris Christie flat-out canceled a 20-year planning effort, and it seems unlikely that a replacement will materialize within the next few years (or possibly even decades).
Enjoy the effort to expand our transit network while you can. As governments tighten their belts, increases in rail capacity will be few and far between. That’s some somber news for a Friday afternoon.