Home MTA Economics Just how far can $1.3 billion go?

Just how far can $1.3 billion go?

by Benjamin Kabak


With federal stimulus funding in place, the Fulton St. oculus may be saved.

Now that the United States Congress has approved the controversial stimulus plan, New Yorkers can start counting their delays. Over the next few weeks and months, the MTA, among other agencies, will receive an infusion of cash and will thus be able to complete or accelerate numerous capital projects. Sadly, though, $1.3 billion just doesn’t go as far as it once did.

According to a Daily News profile of the New York-based movers and shakers behind the stimulus package, the city’s beleaguered transit agency will receive approximately that amount. The total could go up or down by a few hundred million based upon the formulas, but in the end, it should fall short of the anticipated $1.5 billion upon which we were counting two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, here in New York, the MTA has yet to release a list of official stimulus projects. However, we can take a peak at an early version of the list — beginning on page 11 of that PDF file — to get a sense of what may earn funding.

As of now, I believe that the MTA will look to see if they can revive the lost 7 line stop at 41st and Tenth Ave. That’s a $400-$500 million project though. The agency may also siphon a good amount of money — up to another $500 million — into the Fulton St. hub. If the spend the bulk of their money on those two projects though, the remaining $300 million seems rather meager.

Meanwhile, the proposed projects are necessary but decidedly less sexy. Basically, the MTA has to use this money to fund a series of shovel-ready projects that could actually provide jobs and kickstart the economy as this recovery package is intended to do. New York City Transit may look to replace a series of flood-prone vents along Jackson Ave. in Queens while overhauling 10 stations along the West End line in Brooklyn. Forty-three stations could receive their long-awaited public address systems, and the IRT platforms at Union Sq. may receive some new gap-fillers.

Beyond that, some Metro-North and LIRR projects are on tap for federal funds, and the East Side Access plan could use the cash as well. If that sounds like a lot of projects competing for not very much money, well, that’s because it is.

In the end, the stimulus money is simply a small infusion of capital cash. It’s not designed to fund transit as much as it is designed to get projects moving with the hopes that more money will be invested into them later on. The MTA needs it, but the agency will soon be asking for $30 billion over five years. Where that money will come from is anyone’s guess.

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rhywun February 18, 2009 - 8:37 am

Too bad the money isn’t distributed on a “cost of living” basis. A billion dollars just doesn’t go very far in NYC. A place like Peoria will probably be able to triple-deck all its freeways with whatever its share is, while we get one subway station and an oculus. Hardly seems fair.

Marc Shepherd February 18, 2009 - 12:04 pm

The Tenth Avenue station strikes me as a pretty high priority, because if you don’t build it when the line is under construction, it’s a lot more difficult to go back and add it later. Leaving aside the question of whether the Flushing Line should have been extended at all, to do it and not include the Tenth Avenue station is utter madness.

Kris Datta February 18, 2009 - 2:40 pm

At least it’s something. If the MTA can get Fulton St. out of its metaphorical hair then it only has three capital projects to focus on – the 7 extension which IINM is fully funded, the ESA which is moving along nicely, and the SAS.


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