In writing yesterday about the city’s nascent plan to extend the 7 train to Secaucus, New Jersey, I touched briefly on those who stand to benefit the most from the plan. As with the current iteration of the city-funded 7 line extension, real estate interests — in particular, those of Related who are in line to develop the Hudson Yards — have the most riding on this project. By connecting a new mixed-use center with both New Jersey and the popular 7 line, Related would be able to draw thousands of people to an area of the city that’s currently among the least transit-accessible in Manhattan.
In fact, on Monday night, before the story broke in The Times, Stephen M. Ross, the CEO of Related, endorsed this project in a conversation with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “I think it’s a great idea and it could save a ton of money,” Ross said to The Times.
The Real Estate Board of New York has also embraced the idea, and this influential group is now lobbying hard for fast action. “Every developer I’ve spoken to thinks it’s a terrific, simple idea,” REBNY President Steven Spinola said. “They all think it will be wonderful…“It sounds like a real solution [to the cross-Hudson capacity problems]. You’re able to provide the transportation needs, yet at a substantially lower cost.”
I’ve written before about the way transit advocates need real estate interests but need to be wary of them, and that certainly applies here. You won’t see REBNY advocating for a Nostrand Ave. subway or the Triboro RX plan which will lead to improvements but not of the same potential that we see here.You will see them advocating for a 7 line extension when the benefits to their interests are obvious. They have the political clout though to be heard in Washington, City Hall and Albany, something with which advocates have not been overly successful lately.
The real estate lobby isn’t the only one embracing this plan. Both the Daily News and New York Times editorial boards supported this project today. “The benefits,” says the News, “would include expanded bistate rail capacity, a potential easing in auto congestion and a spur to growth on the West Side and construction of a new No. 7 station at 42nd St. and 10th Ave.”
The Times highlighted how this seems to be a natural extension of the 7 line. “What makes the Bloomberg concept intriguing is that much of the drilling for this subway tunnel is already being done in Manhattan,” the Gray Lady says. “For the other tunnel that was scrapped by Governor Christie, known as ARC, the biggest cost would have been for a new corridor deep under Manhattan’s Far West Side. ARC’s total cost was edging up to $11 billion before it was canceled. ‘ARC-lite,’ as some city officials are calling the Bloomberg tunnel, has an estimated cost of about $5.3 billion.”
Now, while Bloomberg’s proposal has garnered headlines, it’s not the first time the idea of a subway to Secaucus has been floated. A few years ago, Ralph Braskett and Steve Lanset put forward their Subway to Secaucus proposal, and it appears that Bloomberg has drawn from it. Questions remain concerning funding. Will the feds pay for this subway extension?
According to various transit advocates, if the feds do fund part of this project, it won’t be with ARC Tunnel money. “The $3 billion has disappeared,” the RPA’s Jeff Zupan said to the Daily News. “They’re not going to turn around and say, ‘okay, you have a better idea now, we’ll give you the money.’ It’s not going to happen.”
Federal officials believe that the FTA will not work too hard to keep this money in the northeast because of anger over Christie’s decision-making process. Rather, it will go to other New Starts projects, and one Daily News source said that the odds are “slim to none” that the Secaucus subway will get ARC money.
Mayor Bloomberg though remained hopefully that other money could find its way to this grand idea. “It’s very early,” he said, “but we’re certainly talking to Gov. Christie’s office, to Governor-elect Cuomo’s office, to the MTA, to Ray LaHood and his people.”
It’s going to take a lot of talking to get this ambitious plan off the ground.