Cuomo is kicking the can down the road

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

The original proposed previous 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 an $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 the original $32 billion). When will these billions become a reality?


The original proposed 2015 – 2019 MTA $32 billion Five Year Capital Plan in September 2014 was rejected by the New York State MTA Capital Program Review Board.  In October 2015, a revised $28 billion 2015 – 2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan was approved by the MTA Board. It still needs approval by the NYSCPRB.

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 next 2020 – 2024 MTA Five Year Capital Program will first have to deal with $9 billion in unfunded carryover capital projects and programs going back 10 years. 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 new #7 subway station at 10th Avenue & 41st? This was dropped from the original scope of work for the #7 subway Hudson Yards extension as a means to keep the project within a baseline $2.1 billon budget. In the end, the cost was $2.4 billion without this station.

Also needed is $1.5 billion for the LIRR Main Line Third Track project. Don’t forget $5 billion for New York’s share of the $20 billion Amtrak Gateway Tunnel project from New Jersey to Penn Station. The LaGuardia Airport Train to the Plane base line budget of $450 million in the years to come will require up to an additional $550 million.  The final cost may be closer to $1 billion.

The $3 billion new Penn Station will end up needing far more than $300 million in combined assistance from the MTA, Amtrak along with Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Does anyone really believe that potential developers will spend $2.7 billion of their own funding to pay for this? Staten Island residents will continue looking for up to $600 million for the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit.  Queens residents will be looking for $100 million toward the $200 million Woodhaven Blvd. Select Bus Service. These dollars may be necessary if NYCDOT is unable to secure $100 million in United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding.  Suffolk County residents will be looking for $100 million for the Route 110 Bus Rapid Transit.  Westchester County residents desire $50 million for the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit.

Others will continue to lobby for restoration of LIRR service on old Rockaway LIRR branch at $1 billion, Triboro X Subway Express (new subway line connecting the Bronx, Queens & Brooklyn for $1 to $2  billion) and most recently the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront Street Car Connector at a cost of up to $1.5 billion.

Combined, all of the above would make Cuomo’s tab for unfunded transportation improvements exceed $26 billion!  This doesn’t include how he will pay back a $3 billion federal loan for construction of the Tappen Zee Bridge.  Couomo 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

(Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked in the transportation field for 31 years) .