Archive for Moynihan Station

Six weeks after the Moynihan Station projected earned an $83 million TIGER grant that will enable the city to build Phase I of the ambitious Penn Station expansion plan, New York’s Empire State Development Corporation has approved the amended General Project Plan. (View the amended Project Plan here.) The ESDC vote kicked off the public approval process, and the next major milestone will be a public hearing on Wednesday April 28 at the Farley Post Office, the future site of the project.

“Too many have waited too long for relief at Penn Station,” Robin Stout, Moynihan Station Development Corporation president said in a statement after the vote. “As we move through the public approval process, we will also be concluding our design and documentation so that Phase 1 construction can begin as soon as possible.”

As the Moynihan Station plan moves forward — with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as the lead architects — the costs remain an issue. Phase I is a $267 million project that simply improves access to the current Penn Station by constructing more entrances and widening a few platforms. Phase II, which will turn the Farley Building into a rail hall, will cost between $1-$1.5 billion and has not yet received any funding commitments. Baby steps are better than no progress at all, but I’m not too optimistic that the Moynihan Station plan as it currently exists will see the light of day anytime soon.

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A federal TIGER grant approved today ensures that at least the first phase of the Moynihan Station proposal will see the light of day. (Rendering via Friends of Moynihan Station)

After years of proposals, politicking and promises, Moynihan Station is finally poised to become something of a reality. Earlier today, Sen. Chuck Schumer, long a champion of the Penn Station expansion project, announced an $83 million TIGER grant for the station, and the money closes the Phase I budget gap. Construction will commence before the end of 2010.

As Elana Schor at Streetsblog DC details, the grant is part of the Obama Administration’s competitive $1.5 billion Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery program, and New York’s plan is the first bid winner. This award is a clean sign of the federal Department of Transportation’s move toward a more merit-based funding solution. “Moynihan Station is the poster child for the best way to use federal funding,” Schumer said. “It creates jobs, upgrades aging transportation infrastructure, and leaves behind an economic engine for the entire region.”

With this $83.3 million grant in place, the Moynihan Station now has a guaranteed $267 million set aside for it. The breakdown, per a press release is as follows: $110 million in previously earmarked federal funding, $35 million from the Metropolitan Transit Authority, $14 million from the State of New York, and $10 million from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

So what then does $267 million buy at the planned site of a new transportation hub? Unfortunately, not very much. Per Friends of Moynhian Station, the money will go toward:

  • Building two new entrances to Penn Station’s platforms from West of Eighth Avenue through the corners of the Farley Building;
  • Doubling the length and width of the West End Concourse;
  • Providing 13 new “vertical access points” (escalators, elevators and stairs) to the platforms;
  • Doubling the width of the 33rd Street Connector between Penn Station and the West End Concourse and;
  • Other critical infrastructure improvements including platform ventilation and catenary work.

Phase II, construction of the train hall in the Farley Building, will be independently funded and is currently estimated to cost between $1 and $1.5 billion. The Friends of Moynihan Station stress that all Phase I elements will be independently functional in the very likely event that Phase II doesn’t get off the ground any time soon.

Still, long-term advocates of the station were thrilled with today’s developments. “We’re very pleased this critical project is finally getting underway, after years of delay,” Bob Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, said. “There is no more important project for creating needed transportation capacity in the regional rail system and for catalyzing the redevelopment of New York’s Far West Side.”

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Yesterday, I examined how the ball is rolling again for Moynihan Station, and late in the day, Eliot Brown from The Observer emailed me a link to a piece he had written about the federal involvement in the project. Brown writes that to get funding for the new station, the supporters are going to be relying heavily on the Obama Administration’s transportation investment plans. Gov. Paterson may ask for $398 million in stimulus funding, and the state hopes that President Obama’s high-speed rail imitative will send some money to Moynihan as well. Brown also explores how the project is closer to a reality now that its supporters have broken it into bite-sized pieces and are no longer pushing a massive overhaul of the Madison Square Garden area. [The Observer]

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Moynihan Station building steam

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Amtrak may one day be operating out of the Farley Post Office. (Photo courtesy of Friends of Moynihan Station)

Every few months, Senator Chuck Schumer’s desires to get Moynihan Station off the drawing board and onto 8th Ave. rear its head. Over the last week, twin news stories have pushed this new depot — a much-needed replacement for Penn Station — onto the news pages and into the minds of transit advocates.

The more recent story focuses on Amtrak. For years, Moynihan Station had been held up and generally left for dead because the rail giant had not signed onto the project. This week, though, Amtrak agreed to move its operations to Moynihan Station. According to Schumer’s office, Amtrak agreed to the deal after being promised more revenue from retail shops and a few design changes.

With Amtrak on board, the biggest hurdle to the project now seemingly becomes money. The project is estimated to cost up to $1.5 billion, and while the Feds have guaranteed at least $200 million, that still leaves a sizable gap. According to the Daily News, Mayor Bloomberg was “noncommittal” about the city’s involvement in the project. He would rather pay to extend the 7 nowhere than help build a much-needed railhub in Midtown.

In other Moynihan-related news, Metro-North announced a new study of Metro-North access to Penn Station. The agency became an environmental review nearly ten years ago and had reduced its initial proposal to four alternatives: two for the Hudson Line and two for the New Haven line. No matter the final choice, these routes were projected to provide service at all times and include stations on the far west side of Manhattan that aren’t served by regional rail.

Now, after consulting with the FTA, Metro-North will proceed with a study of full service for both the Hudson and New Haven lines. Hudson Line service would run into Penn Station via the current Amtrak Empire Connection with two new stations — one near W. 125th St. and one on the Upper West Side. In March, I noted that the W. 60th area seemed a likely spot for a Metro-North stop. The New Haven line will run to Penn Station via the Hell Gate Line, and it will stop at three stations in the east Bronx — one at Co-Op City, one at Parkchester and one near Hunts Point.

The final environmental assessment will be completed in 2011, and it will incorporate information about the long-range plans for Penn Station. That is, of course, where Moynihan Station comes in. It will behoove Amtrak, the city and state to finalize Moynihan Plans so that Metro-North can proceed with their expansion plans. One day, we may yet have more Metro-North options on the west side and a fancy train station in midtown. Slowly, New York will earn a station better equipped for rail travel than the current Penn Station.

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