Last week, the MTA announced they were slashing $1 billion from the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway, thus prolonging a project that has already seemed interminable. The agency says they made the cuts out of fear that the 2015-2019 capital plan won't get enough funding, but the Mayor's office, which finally offered to fork over $2.5 billion last month, is not super pleased that the city is seemingly getting stiffed.
At a press conference yesterday, Mayor de Blasio blasted the MTA's budget cuts, noting that the city okayed the unprecedented $2.5 billion in funding after the agency agreed to put more emphasis on city-related transit programs. "We invested heavily in the MTA in a way the city hasn't done before. We insisted on some key reforms," he told reporters. "We were all surprised to hear some of the changes around the Second Avenue Subway, and I think that's a conversation that must continue."
The MTA has nearly completed the first phase of the project, which is expected to open to the public in December 2016. But that phase only runs from 96th Street down to 63rd Street, and though it will probably alleviate a chunk of heavy congestion on the 4,5,6 trains, Phase II—which covers 96th through 125th Streets—is a necessary addition. The MTA says they'll be unable to begin that tunnel-boring phase until 2019, though they are "actively looking for ways to deliver the project faster" despite the "regulatory and engineering constraints on heavy construction in a densely populated section of Manhattan," per a statement from MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast.
Still, the city says it's time to speed things up—the MTA's been working on the Second Ave Subway's first phase since 2007, and has been in some sort of planning stage since 1919. "The first phase, let's face it, has taken a very long time. And we have to be honest about the fact that it's a complicated endeavor," de Blasio said yesterday. "But I do think it came as a surprise to many people that there was a change in the funding, and I think that has to be reconsidered to make sure that everything's being done, to move phase two, despite the challenges and the complexities, to move phase two as quickly as it can be done."
The Mayor isn't the only city official to object to the cuts—City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Comptroller Scott Stringer both said they were surprised by the delay, and Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Charlie Rangel reached out to the MTA to see if they had a better timeline for the project. The good news is, the MTA says they'll still be making necessary subway additions like a connection between the 3 and L trains in Brownsville and a number of station upgrades; the bad news is that the Second Avenue Subway still has two more phases in addition to the halted Phase II, so hopefully our great-great-grandchildren will have biologically adapted to withstand all that East Side tunnel blasting long after we're dead.
Additional reporting by Miranda D. Katz.