Cuomo has short-sighted take on transit

By Larry Penner

When it came to transportation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s annual State of the State speech had great sound bites but provided little substance. Cuomo failed to give any specifics of how he will come up with the $8.3 billion promised to meet the shortfall in his proposed 2015-2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan. Cuomo is kicking the can down the road.

The original proposed 2010-2014 MTA $29 billion Five Year Capital Plan was cut to $24.2 billion before being approved. This doesn’t include $8.3 billion more pledged by Cuomo and $2.5 billion by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to help cover shortfalls in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed $28 billion 2015 – 2019 Five Year Capital Plan (cut from $32 billion). When will these billions become reality?

How can the MTA justify cutting $9 billion in badly needed capital improvements over a ten year period and still provide the day to day services millions of New Yorkers count on? How many critical capital improvement projects will be postponed into the next 2020 – 2024 Capital Program?

The 2020-2024 MTA Five Year Capital Program will first have to deal with $9 billion in unfunded carryover capital projects and programs. By waiting all these years, the costs will have gone up by another billion or two. This includes $1 billion or more to construct Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway. Next is $1 billion or more to finish LIRR Eastside Access to Grand Central Terminal. What about finding $500 million to build the No. 7 subway station at 10th Avenue and 41st?

Also needed is $1.5 billion for the LIRR Main Line Third Track project. The LaGuardia Airport Train to the Plane baseline budget of $450 million in the years to come will require up to an additional $550 million.

The $3 billion new Penn Station will end up needing far more than $300 million in combined assistance from the MTA, Amtrak and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Does anyone believe that potential developers will spend $2.7 billion of their own funding to pay for this?

Some Queens residents will look for $100 million toward the $200 million Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service. These dollars may be necessary if NYCDOT can’t secure $100 million in U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding. Others will continue to lobby for restoration of LIRR service on the old Rockaway LIRR branch at $1 billion, Triboro X Subway Express (new subway line connecting the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn for $1 to $2 billion) and most recently the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront Street Car Connector at a cost of $1.7 billion.

Combined, all of the above would make Cuomo’s tab for unfunded transportation improvements exceed $26 billion! Cuomo reminds me of the character Wimpy who famously said “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” When the bills become due, taxpayers will be stuck with Cuomo’s tab. Why would the next governor want to pay for any of Cuomo’s bills?

Larry Penner

Great Neck