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Stalled Second Avenue Subway Extension in NYC Receives $3.4B in Federal Money

Wed November 08, 2023 - Northeast Edition #24
New York Post

125th Street entrance, looking south (MTA rendering)
125th Street entrance, looking south (MTA rendering)

After several years of delays, the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway extension on the east side of New York City is set to get under way, due to a $3.4 billion injection from the federal government.

This phase of the project will continue the line north into East Harlem, from 96th Street to 125th Street, and includes three new stations at 106th, 116th, and 125th streets, according to the New York Post.

"Every dollar we need to build this is now here," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, at a news conference in Harlem the morning of Nov. 4.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $7.7 billion.

When the construction effort is complete, 300,000 people in the transit desert of East Harlem will benefit, Schumer added.

During the week prior to the funding announcement, Schumer and New York Congressman Adriano Espaillat, D-13th District, unveiled a full funding grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Over the next weekend, they gathered near the Harlem-125th Street station with Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Chair Janno Lieber and other officials to sign it.

The Post reported that about 30 union laborers also were in attendance, many in hard hats and fluorescent Laborers Local 731 jerseys.

The grant application for the project had been in limbo since 2018. Though former President Donald Trump voiced support for it, his administration declined to give it the go-ahead. In 2021, Hochul pledged to resume the project.

Subway Extension's Finish Likely a Decade Away

The first phase of the extension, which increased Q subway service from 63rd Street to 96th Street along Manhattan's East Side, wrapped in 2017.

A specific date for construction to begin on the second phase was not announced but the project is expected to take around eight years to finish once it does get under way.

Lieber added that procurement to relocate the old utilities beneath Second Avenue is already ongoing.

Water, sewers, and electric utilities are currently found underground and must be transported away from the construction zone, according to MTA plans.

The transit authority did not immediately respond to a Post inquiry about impending road and transit closures related to the work, but its plans indicate that it is trying to minimize the impacts.

Construction for the second phase will also include excavation for the new tunnel and stations, station entrances, ancillary buildings, and connections to the 4/5/6 subway at Lexington Avenue.

A Post investigation in March, built upon New York University research, revealed how the MTA's excessive designs for stations twice as big as necessary compound with cost disadvantages due to union work rules and local regulations. More complex projects in Europe's oldest cities cost a fraction of this new phase of work beneath Second Avenue.

On Saturday, Buttigieg was asked if he was worried that the plug could get pulled on the project down the road.

"We're determined not to let that happen, but it is something that's on our radar," he told reporters.

"Building in New York ain't cheap and we all know that" added Lieber, "but with the Second Avenue Subway Phase Two, you get the lowest cost per rider of any major rail project in the United States."

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