When last we checked in on Moynihan Station, things were not looking good for the oft-delayed and rather expensive project. Phase 1 — essentially some wider concourses and more entrances — had to be scaled back amidst cost concerns when the bids on the project came in well above expectations. The Phase 2 work which includes the conversion of the post office building into the actual train station remains unfunded and a dream in the eyes of the project’s supporters.
Now, though, the Port Authority has some cause to celebrate. With a new price tag of $270 million, Phase 1 will kick off later this year, nearly two years after the ceremonial groundbreaking, Port Authority head Patrick Foye said yesterday. According to Reuters, Skanska’s $148 million bid to add street-level entrances at 31st and 33rd Sts. was the winning one. The different will go toward a new ventilation system and a mighty expensive underground walkway to Penn Station.
In comments yesterday, Foye spun this is a big step forward. Dana Rubinstein was on hand to report:
Foye, himself a Long Island Railroad commuter, said what has been a “fairly dingy” commuter experience would now “be fit for humans.”
…The project’s impact will be felt mainly by commuters. “It’s going to mean easier access to and from the tracks for Long Island Railroad commuters, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak,” said Foye. The authority was careful to present the project as Phase I of a two-part redevelopment that will culminate in the conversion of the Farley post office into an Amtrak terminal and retail center called Moynihan Station.
Though Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust are still the designated developers for Phase II, the project is unfunded and generally considered, at the very least, dormant. Even so, Foye argued on Tuesday that the completion of this track work, which he called, “the concourse of the new railroad station, of the new Moynihan Station,” would help make the latter a reality.
“The way I’d say it would be that the commencement of construction here later this year is gonna send a message to the development community, to investors, to Related and to Vornado and frankly to the whole community that this project’s gonna happen,” said Foye, “And, we would expect that not only is it a precondition to Phase II and the redevelopment of this building, but that it’s commencement will accelerate those discussions and that investment.”
By itself, the Phase 1 project is a worthwhile one. Improving access into and out of Penn Station will go a long way toward easing the crush of commuters in this underground cavern. That the Port Authority worked to ensure bids came in at budget is a step in the right direction too.
As I’ve noted in the past though, the Moynihan Station plan — with a price tag ranging from $500 million to $1 billion — leaves much to be desired. It doesn’t increase track capacity through the city and represents a nice building for politicians and a lot of dollars spent on some cosmetic upgrades. If it’s a future key for high-speed rail, that’s an easier pill to swallow, but I still wonder about our infrastructure spending priorities at a time when funds are not freely flowing.