By Sarah Trefethen
MTA boss Joseph Lhota told city construction leaders that improving the city’s transportation system is a vital part of its growth.
But he said expecting a trans-Hudson train tunnel any time soon is too much to ask.
“They think they’ll be able to get across the Hudson for $2.25 billion,” he said. “That’s not going to happen. Not in our lifetime.”
Speaking at the New York Building Congress Construction Industry Breakfast Forum yesterday (Tuesday) morning, Lhota offered support for a proposal by Amtrack to construct a tunnel between Manhattan and New Jersey beneath the Hudson River.
However, he said prohibitive costs mean the city subway won’t be crossing the river any time soon in spite of enthusiasm for the idea on its western bank.
Lhota, chairman and CEO of Metropolitan Transportation Authority, pointed out that New York City is projected to add 1.8 million residents by 2035.
“The only way that estimate is going to become a reality is if our transit system continues to expand,” he said. “If we want to meet what’s expected of the growth of New York, we’re going to need champions like you.”
Lhota thanked the Building Congress for its lobbying efforts in support of the MTA capital plan in Albany. State lawmakers last week voted to authorize borrowing $7 billion to fully fund the remaining three years of the $22 billion five-year plan.
The MTA supplies 25 percent of all construction jobs in the city, Lhota said, citing Building Congress data, and the capital plan is directly and indirectly responsible for creating 350,000 jobs.
Lhota reviewed the four major projects in the current capital plan: the Second Avenue subway (to be known as the T line,) the Fulton Street Transit Center, the extension of the 7 line to the west side of Manhattan and the creation of a Long Island Railroad terminus beneath the existing Grand Central Station.
“Most people who go into Grand Central every day have no idea this has been going on for years,” he said, showing a picture of new tunnels taking shape beneath the existing Metro-North platforms. The project is scheduled for completion in September 2016.
Looking beyond the existing capital plan, Lhota emphasized the need to increase the capacity of the existing subway lines by running more trains, which will require an upgrade to the 70-year-old signal system.
As residents move into previously industrial parts of the city, he said, stations should be lengthened to accommodate more riders.
“Had people at the MTA thought people might be living in Williamsburg one day, you would have had four entrances instead of two” in station in that neighborhood, he said.
Lhota also said he is a “big believer” in one day bringing Metro-North service to the west side.