Lhota: Let’s send the 7 to ChelseaBy
As the MTA nears the 20 (or perhaps 24-month) countdown to mark the days until the 7 line extension is put into revenue service, the future of the agency’s megaprojects continues to make headlines. Once the extension to the Hudson Yards area wraps, the Second Ave. Subway will surve as the MTA’s only subway expansion project, and many in New York are eying ways to keep the ball rolling. We heard one dreamer’s plan in January to send the L train to the United Nations, but what of the current MTA head?
During Friday’s Regional Assembly hosted the Regional Plan Associate, MTA Chairman and CEO Joe Lhota, the person whose voice may count the most over the next few years, spoke about his dreams for the 7 train. Specifically, he wants to send it south to Chelsea. “As far as big projects are concerned, I can actually see the extension of the No. 7 train to other parts of New York City’s west side,” he said. The 7 could “go all the way down to 23rd Street, and the West Side Highway, so we can incorporate that portion of the west side that’s not receiving a whole lot of coverage.”
Transportation Nation’s Jim O’Grady was on hand at the Regional Assembly, and he had more from Lhota:
Lhota told planners…that the first project on his “wish list” is extending the Number 7 subway train down 11th Avenue to 23rd Street. “It’s something that I think would make sense because if you look at the demographics of the West Side, we shouldn’t just make one stop,” he told reporters after taking part in a workshop at the Regional Plan Association’s annual assembly, which was held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Lhota said, “It’s important to have plans, to have a wish list.” But he cautioned there was no active push to send the 7 train from Times Square past its planned terminus at W 34th Street. “I’m not sure it can be done,” he said. “I’m not sure about how close you can get to the Hudson River.”
Lhota’s reference to the Hudson River concerns the technical side of any southern expansion. Because the new terminal with the tail tracks extending south to the low 20s is so close to the West Side, future tunneling would have to cut east. It’s not technically impossible to envision a connection to 14th Street, and furthermore, with the way the tail tracks are built out now, the MTA could add a stop without much more tunneling. A stop in the 20s underneath 11th Ave., however, would destroy the capacity and storage needs the trail tracks address.
On another level, though, Lhota’s discussion seems to be missing something, and that’s something that’s been largely swept under the rug over the past few years. If the MTA wants to add another stop to what has become a one-station extension of the 7 train, the logical spot can be found in the original plans. Before the 7 heads further south or curves around through Chelsea or goes anywhere else, the authority should figure out a way to build the long lost station at 10th Ave. and 41st St.
Ever since the city failed to pony up the dough for the station and both parties agreed to axe it, the station has disappeared from the discussion. It’s out of sight, out of mind. Yet, its absence will be felt for years in the rapidly growing area in the 40s west of 9th Ave. With high rises, a boat terminal and nightlife destinations, that area was primed for a subway stop, and the planned one never materialized. Provisioning for the station is in place, but the money isn’t. We may never see that station, but we should see it before we see a stop further south.
Of course, this entire discussion may be for naught as MTA officials stressed that Lhota wants to get the MTA’s financial house of cards in order first. The 7 extension, Lhota said, “may not necessarily be in the very next capital plan,” and Adam Lisberg, chief MTA spokesperson, called it a “very long term” plan in a note to Capital New York. We have to start thinking toward the future somewhere though, and 41st and 10th should get the attention it deserves.