When it comes to transit planning, the concept of legacy is a dangerous one for New York politicians. Instead of finding new funding sources or promoting transit investment that improves the current system based upon need, politicians prefer something flashy that will carry their names well beyond their term-limited time in the New York arena. That is, after all, one of the reasons why Mayor Bloomberg is funding the 7 line extension to the Hudson Yards area while the Second Ave. Subway struggles to move beyond Phase 1.
Now, the Mayor is poised to push forward on a plan to extend the 7 line westward, past the boundaries of New York City, under the Hudson River and to Secaucus. It would be a monumental project with a price tag today of around $10 billion and a construction time of ten years. It would represent the first extension of the New York City subway to areas outside of New York City. With various stakeholders — including the city, New Jersey, the Port Authority, the federal government and the MTA — it has the potential to be a complicated project, but according to a report in the The Post, the mayor wants to get it off the ground before he leaves office in 2013.
This tale began last November when the city, without notifying the MTA or anyone else really, floated a plan to send the 7 to Secaucus as a potential ARC replacement. The move would provide a one-seat ride from New Jersey to midtown and would further spur growth at the Hudson Yards area. The city paid Parsons Brinckerhoff $250,000 to conduct a feasibility study, and apparently, Bloomberg likes what he’s seen from the preliminary report.
Calling this subway extension “a heck of a lot better” than the ARC Tunnel, one source in the Bloomberg administration said things could move forward quickly. “This is a really good project,” the source told The Post. “The mayor wants this.” Whatever Mikey wants, Mikey gets.
The Post has more:
Mayor Bloomberg is pushing forward with a proposal to extend the No. 7 train to New Jersey and get the project locked in before he leaves City Hall in two years…Although noncommittal in public, Hizzoner is now a fan of the concept and is looking to announce the next planning steps in the coming months, sources said. Bloomberg would then be able to go public with a formal proposal by the end of 2012, in a bid to get the New Jersey-bound No. 7 tunnel on track by the close of his third term, Dec. 31, 2013…
The next steps in the process are a full business plan and environmental-impact study, which have not yet been commissioned. During his weekly radio appearance on WOR Friday, Bloomberg didn’t reveal his enthusiasm for the project, saying only, “If there’s money for it and it makes sense, I’d certainly support it.”
But yesterday, Bloomberg spokeswoman Julie Wood sounded a more optimistic note: “Since we began exploring this idea, we continue to think it has a lot of potential as a way to cost-effectively improve regional transportation and also create thousands of jobs.”
Officials in the Christie administration and the Port Authority are working with City Hall on the No. 7 concept, but insist that the mayor take the lead. Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said yesterday, “We have been intrigued all along by this as a potential alternative.”
The issues, of course, focus around the money. Where will anyone find $10 billion for the project? Would the Port Authority be involved in a cross-Hudson project that uses MTA services and rolling stock? What would New Jersey contribute? How would New York City fund such an expansion — and should the city even be looking at an out-of-state subway line when so many routes within the five boroughs could use the attention?
For their part, MTA officials were silent on the news. Speaking after the MTA Board meeting this morning, Transit president Thomas Prendergast didn’t offer up too much. “We have to see what results of the study are,” he said. “It would be premature to comment on it.”
Ultimately, as The Post notes, though, this move is all about Bloomberg’s legacy. Moving forward with such an ambitious project would cement his place in the annals of city history. He would be the mayor who delivered the subway to New Jersey. Yet, whether we need this subway extension, whether the dollars are there and whether they could be better spent remains to be seen.