By Larry Penner
There is more to the MTA starting service on the No. 7 subway line to the new 34th Street-11th Ave. Hudson Yards station on Sunday that few are aware of. The original cost of the overall project was $2.1 billion and is now $2.4 billion not counting the subway station that had to be dropped from the original scope of work along with additional subway cars necessary to provide opening day service for transit riders.
What the public, transit riders, transit advocacy groups and the media are unaware of is MTA senior management’s decision when the project was in the planning stage several years prior to 2007. They instructed staff deliberately not to follow the federal National Environmental Protection Act process or enter the United States Department of Transportation New Starts process. The MTA did not want to go after New Starts funding for this project. This would have had this project compete against both the Long Island Rail Road East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal and the Second Avenue subway projects for funding. The MTA provided no financial assistance and insisted New York City pay for virtually all of the project costs
The MTA could have leveraged the $2.4 billion in locally committed funding to apply for up to $500 million in federal New Starts funding. Using $2.4 billion as the local share would have demonstrated local commitment, financial capacity and significant overmatch for justification of these additional dollars from Washington. These funds could have convinced DOT to provide $500 million in federal funding, which would have paid for the deleted station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street.
Should the MTA find future funding for this station, the cost could be significantly higher than $500 million. The MTA will need a new procurement and third party contractor to build the station. The previous contractor already had a staging area for supplies, support equipment and employees already mobilized to do the work. It would have been cheaper to build the deleted station with the existing contractor already mobilized, on site with few obstacles.
At the end of the day, riders and taxpayers have to ask if $2.4 billion for a 1.5 mile extension, including one additional station built 21 months behind schedule, is worth the cost.